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Thomas Wingfold, Curate V1 by George MacDonald

Part 3 out of 3

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like the Father's hand laid a little heavy on the heart to make it
still. But her dreams were full of torture, and even when she had no
definite dream, she was haunted by the vague presence of blood. It
was considerably past her usual time for rising when at length she
heard her maid in the room. She got up wearily, but beyond the
heaviest of hearts and a general sense of misery, nothing ailed her.
Nor even did her head ache.

But she had lived an age since she woke last; and the wonder was,
not that she felt so different, but that she should be aware of
being the same person as before notwithstanding all that had passed.
Her business now was to keep herself from thinking until breakfast
should be over. She must hold the "ebony box" of last night close
shut even from her own eyes, lest the demons of which it was full
should rush out and darken the world about her. She hurried to her
bath for strength: the friendly water would rouse her to the
present, make the past recede like a dream, and give her courage to
face the future. Her very body seemed defiled by the knowledge that
was within it. Alas! how must poor Leopold feel, then! But she must
not think.

All the time she was dressing, her thoughts kept hovering round the
awful thing like moths around a foul flame, from which she could not
drive them away. Ever and again she said to herself that she must
not, yet ever and again she found herself peeping through the chinks
of the thought-chamber at the terrible thing inside--the form of
which she could not see--saw only the colour--red,--red mingled with
ghastly whiteness. In all the world, her best-loved, her brother,
the child of her grandfather, was the only one who knew how that
thing came there.

But while Helen's being was in such tumult that she could never more
be the cool, indifferent, self-contented person she had hitherto
been, her old habits and forms of existence were now of endless help
to the retaining of her composure and the covering of her secret. A
dim gleam of gladness woke in her at the sight of the unfinished
cap, than which she could not have a better excuse for her lateness,
and when she showed it to her aunt with the wish of many happy
returns of the day, no second glance from Mrs. Ramshorn added to her

But oh, how terribly the time crept in its going! for she dared not
approach the deserted house while the daylight kept watching it like
a dog; and what if Leopold should have destroyed himself in the
madness of his despair before she could go to him! She had not a
friend to help her. George Bascombe?--she shuddered at the thought
of him. With his grand ideas of duty, he would be for giving up
Leopold that very moment! Naturally the clergyman was the one to go
to--and Mr. Wingfold had himself done wrong. But he had confessed
it! No--he was a poor creature, and would not hold his tongue! She
shook at every knock at the door, every ring at the bell, lest it
should be the police. To be sure, he had been comparatively little
there, and naturally they would seek him first at Goldswyre--but
where next? At Glaston, of course. Every time a servant entered the
room she turned away, lest her ears should make her countenance a
traitor. The police might be watching the house, and might follow
her when she went to him! With her opera-glass, she examined the
meadow, then ran to the bottom of the garden, and lying down, peered
over the sunk fence. But not a human being was in sight. Next she
put on her bonnet, with the pretence of shopping, to see if there
were any suspicious-looking persons in the street. But she did not
meet a single person unknown to her between her aunt's door and Mr.
Drew the linendraper's. There she bought a pair of gloves, and
walked quietly back, passing the house, and going on to the Abbey,
without meeting one person at whom she had to look twice.

All the time her consciousness was like a single intense point of
light in the middle of a darkness it could do nothing to illuminate.
She knew nothing but that her brother lay in that horrible empty
house, and that, if his words were not the ravings of a maniac, the
law, whether it yet suspected him or not, was certainly after him,
and if it had not yet struck upon his trail, was every moment on the
point of finding it, and must sooner or later come up with him. She
MUST save him--all that was left of him to save! But poor Helen knew
very little about saving.

One thing more she became suddenly aware of as she re-entered the
house--the possession of a power of dissimulation, of hiding
herself, hitherto strange to her, for hitherto she had had nothing,
hardly even a passing dislike to conceal. The consciousness brought
only exultation with it, for her nature was not yet delicate enough
to feel the jar of the thought that neither words nor looks must any
more be an index to what lay within her.



But she could not rest. When would the weary day be over, and the
longed-for rather than welcome night appear? Again she went into the
garden, and down to the end of it, and looked out over the meadow.
Not a creature was in sight, except a red and white cow, a child
gathering buttercups, and a few rooks crossing from one field to
another. It was a glorious day; the sun seemed the very centre of
conscious peace. And now first, strange to say, Helen began to know
the bliss of bare existence under a divine sky, in the midst of a
divine air, the two making a divine summer, which throbbed with the
presence of the creative spirit--but as something apart from her
now, something she had had, but had lost, which could never more be
hers. How could she ever be glad again, with such a frightful fact
in her soul! Away there beyond those trees lay her unhappy brother,
in the lonely house, now haunted indeed. Perhaps he lay there dead!
The horrors of the morning, or his own hand, might have slain him.
She must go to him. She would defy the very sun, and go in the face
of the universe. Was he not her brother?--Was there no help
anywhere? no mantle for this sense of soul-nakedness that had made
her feel as if her awful secret might be read a mile away, lying
crimson and livid in the bottom of her heart. She dared hardly think
of it, lest the very act should betray the thing of darkness to the
world of light around her. Nothing but the atmosphere of another
innocent soul could shield hers, and she had no friend. What did
people do when their brothers did awful deeds? She had heard of
praying to God--had indeed herself told her brother to pray, but it
was all folly--worse, priestcraft. As if such things AND a God could
exist together! Yet, even with the thought of denial in her mind,
she looked up, and gazed earnestly into the wide innocent mighty
space, as if by searching she might find some one. Perhaps she OUGHT
to pray. She could see no likelihood of a God, and yet something
pushed her towards prayer. What if all this had come upon her and
Poldie because she never prayed! If there were such horrible things
in the world, although she had never dreamed of them--if they could
come so near her, into her very soul, making her feel like a
murderess, might there not be a God also, though she knew nothing of
his whereabouts or how to reach him and gain a hearing? Certainly if
things went with such hellish possibilities at the heart of them,
and there was no hand at all to restrain or guide or restore, the
world was a good deal worse place than either the Methodists or the
Positivists made it out to be. In the form of feelings, not of
words, hardly even of thoughts, things like these passed through her
mind as she stood on the top of the sunk fence and gazed across the
flat of sunny green before her. She could almost have slain herself
to be rid of her knowledge and the awful consciousness that was its
result. SHE would have found no difficulty in that line of
Macbeth:--"To know my deed, 'twere best not know myself."--But all
this time there was her brother! She MUST go to him. "God hide me,"
she cried within her. "But how can he hide me," she thought, "when I
am hiding a murderer?" "O God," she cried again, and this time in an
audible murmur, "I am his sister, thou knowest!" Then she turned,
walked back to the house, and sought her aunt.

"I have got a little headache," she said quite coolly, "and I want a
long walk. Don't wait luncheon for me. It is such a glorious day! I
shall go by the Millpool road, and across the park. Good-bye till
tea, or perhaps dinner-time even."

"Hadn't you better have a ride and be back to luncheon? I shan't
want Jones to-day," said her aunt mournfully, who, although she had
almost given up birthdays, thought her niece need not quite desert
her on the disagreeable occasion.

"I'm not in tne humour for riding, aunt. Nothing will do me good but
a walk. I shall put some luncheon in my bag."

She went quietly out by the front door, walked slowly, softly,
statelily along the street and out of the town, and entered the park
by the lodge-gate. She saw Rachel at her work in the kitchen as she
passed, and heard her singing in a low and weak but very sweet
voice, which went to her heart like a sting, making the tall,
handsome, rich lady envy the poor distorted atom who, through all
the fogs of her winter, had yet something in her that sought such
utterance. But, indeed, if all her misery had been swept away like a
dream, Helen might yet have envied the dwarf ten times more than she
did now, had she but known how they stood compared with each other.
For the being of Helen to that of Rachel was as a single, untwined
primary cell to a finished brain; as the peeping of a chicken to the
song of a lark--I had almost said, to a sonata of Beethoven.

"Good day, Rachel," she said, calling as she passed, in a kindly,
even then rather condescending voice, through the open door, where a
pail of water, just set down, stood rocking the sun on its heaving
surface, and flashing it out again into the ocean of the light. It
seemed to poor Helen a squalid abode, but it was a home-like palace,
and fairly furnished, in comparison with the suburban villa and
shop-upholstery which typified the house of her spirit--now haunted
by a terrible secret walking through its rooms, and laying a bloody
hand upon all their whitenesses.

There was no sound all the way as she went but the noise of the
birds, and an occasional clank from the new building far away. At
last, with beating heart and scared soul, she was within the high
garden-wall, making her way through the rank growth of weeds and
bushes to the dismal house. She entered trembling, and the air felt
as if death had been before her. Hardly would her limbs carry her,
but with slow step she reached the hidden room. He lay as she had
left him. Was he asleep, or dead? She crept near and laid her hand
on his forehead. He started to his feet in an agony of fright. She
soothed and reassured him as best she was able. When the paroxysm

"You didn't whistle," he said.

"No; I forgot," answered Helen, shocked at her own carelessness.
"But if I had, you would not have heard me: you were fast asleep."

"A good thing I was! And yet no! I wish I had heard you, for then by
this time I should have been beyond their reach."

Impulsively he showed her the short dangerous looking weapon he
carried. Helen stretched out her hand to take it, but he hurriedly
replaced it in his pocket.

"I will find some water for you to wash with," said Helen. "There
used to be a well in the garden, I remember. I have brought you a

With some difficulty she found the well, all but lost in matted
weeds under an ivy-tod, and in the saucer of a flower-pot she
carried him some water, and put the garment with the horrible spot
in her bag, to take it away and destroy it. Then she made him eat
and drink. He did whatever she told him, with a dull, yet doglike
obedience. His condition was much changed; he had a stupefied look,
and seemed only half awake to his terrible situation. Yet he
answered what questions she put to him even too readily--with an
indifferent matter-of-factness, indeed, more dreadful than any most
passionate outburst. But at the root of the apparent apathy lay
despair and remorse,--weary, like gorged and sleeping tigers far
back in their dens. Only the dull torpedo of misery was awake, lying
motionless on the bottom of the deepest pool of his spirit.

The mood was favourable to the drawing of his story from him, but
there are more particulars in the narrative I am now going to give
than Helen at that time learned.



While yet a mere boy, scarcely more than sixteen, Leopold had made
acquaintance with the family of a certain manufacturer, who, having
retired from business with a rapidly-gained fortune, had some years
before purchased an estate a few miles from Goldswyre, his uncle's
place. Their settling in the neighbourhood was not welcome to the
old-fashioned, long-rooted family of the Lingards; but although they
had not called upon them, they could not help meeting them
occasionally. Leopold's association with them commenced just after
he had left Eton, between which time and his going up to Cambridge
he spent a year in reading with his cousins' tutor. It was at a ball
he first saw Emmeline, the eldest of the family. She had but lately
returned from a school at which from the first she had had for her
bedfellow a black ewe. It was not a place where any blackness under
that of pitch was likely to attract notice, being one of those very
ordinary and very common schools where everything is done that is
done, first for manners, then for accomplishments, and lastly for
information, leaving all the higher faculties and endowments of the
human being as entirely unconsidered as if they had no existence.
Taste, feeling, judgment, imagination, conscience, are in such
places left to look after themselves, and the considerations
presented to them, and duties required of them as religious, are
only fitted to lower still farther such moral standard as they may
possess. Schools of this kind send out, as their quota of the supply
of mothers for the ages to come, young women who will consult a book
of etiquette as to what is ladylike; who always think what is the
mode, never what is beautiful; who read romances in which the
wickedness is equalled only by the shallowness; who write questions
to weekly papers concerning points of behaviour, and place their
whole, or chief delight in making themselves attractive to men. Some
such girls look lady-like and interesting, and many of them are
skilled in the arts that meet their fullest development in a nature
whose sense of existence is rounded by its own reflection in the
mirror of self-consciousness falsified by vanity. Once understood,
they are for a sadness or a loathing, after the nature that
understands them; till then, they are to the beholder such as they
desire to appear, while under the fair outside lies a nature whose
vulgarity, if the most thorough of changes do not in the meantime
supervene, will manifest itself hideously on the approach of middle
age, that is, by the time when habituation shall have destroyed the
restraints of diffidence. Receiving ever fresh and best assurance of
their own consequence in the attention and admiration of men, such
girls are seldom capable of any real attachment, and the marvel is
that so few of them comparatively disgrace themselves after

Whether it was the swarthy side of his nature, early ripened under
the hot Indian sun, that found itself irresistibly drawn to the
widening of its humanity in the flaxen fairness of Emmeline, or the
Saxon element in him seeking back to its family--it might indeed
have been both, our nature admitting of such marvellous complexity
in its unity,--he fell in love with her, if not in the noblest yet
in a very genuine, though at the same time very passionate way; and
as she had, to use a Scots proverb, a crop for all corn, his
attentions were acceptable to her. Had she been true-hearted enough
to know anything of that love whose name was for ever suffering
profanation upon her lips, she would, being at least a year and a
half older than he, have been too much of a woman to encourage his
approaches--would have felt he was a boy and must not be allowed to
fancy himself a man. But to be just, he did look to English eyes
older than he was. And then he was very handsome, distinguished-looking,
of a good family, which could in no sense be said of her,--and with
high connections--at the same time a natural contrast to herself,
and personally attractive to her. The first moment she saw his great
black eyes blaze, she accepted the homage, laid it on the altar of
her self-worship, and ever after sought to see them lighted up afresh
in worship of her only divinity. To be feelingly aware of her power
over him, to play upon him as on an instrument, to make his cheek
pale or glow, his eyes flash or fill, as she pleased, was a game
almost too delightful.

One of the most potent means for producing the humano-atmospheric
play in which her soul thus rejoiced, and one whose operation was to
none better known than to Emmeline, was jealousy, and for its
generation she had all possible facilities--for there could not be a
woman in regard of whom jealousy was more justifiable on any ground
except that of being worth it. So far as it will reach, however, it
must be remembered, in mitigation of judgment, that she had no gauge
in herself equal to the representation of a tithe of the misery
whose signs served to lift her to the very Paradise of falsehood:
she knew not what she did, and possibly knowledge might have found
in her some pity and abstinence. But when a woman, in her own nature
cold, takes delight in rousing passion, she will, selfishly
confident in her own safety, go to strange lengths in kindling and
fanning the flame which is the death of the other.

It is far from my intention to follow the disagreeable topic across
the pathless swamp through which an elaboration of its phases would
necessarily drag me. Of morbid anatomy, save for the setting forth
of cure, I am not fond, and here there is nothing to be said of
cure. What concerns me as a narrator is, that Emmeline consoled and
irritated and re-consoled Leopold, until she had him her very slave,
and the more her slave that by that time he knew something of her
character. The knowledge took from him what little repose she had
left him; he did no more good at school, and went to Cambridge with
the conviction that the woman to whom he had given his soul, would
be doing things in his absence the sight of which would drive him
mad. Yet somehow he continued to live, reassured now and then by the
loving letters she wrote to him, and relieving his own heart while
he fostered her falsehood by the passionate replies he made to them.

From a sad accident of his childhood, he had become acquainted with
something of the influences of a certain baneful drug, to the use of
which one of his attendants was addicted, and now at college, partly
from curiosity, partly from a desire to undergo its effects, but
chiefly in order to escape from ever-gnawing and passionate thought,
he began to make EXPERIMENTS in its use. Experiment called for
repetition--in order to verification, said the fiend,--and
repetition led first to a longing after its effects, and next to a
mad appetite for the thing itself; so that, by the time of which my
narrative treats, he was on the verge of absolute slavery to its
use, and in imminent peril of having to pass the rest of his life in
alternations of ecstasy and agony, divided by dull spaces of misery,
the ecstasies growing rarer and rarer, and the agonies more and more
frequent, intense, and lasting; until at length the dethroned Apollo
found himself chained to a pillar of his own ruined temple, which
the sirocco was fast filling with desert sand.



He knew from her letters that they were going to give a ball, at
which as many as pleased should be welcome in fancy dresses, and
masked if they chose. The night before it he had a dream, under the
influence of his familiar no doubt, which made him so miserable and
jealous that he longed to see her as a wounded man longs for water,
and the thought arose of going down to the ball, not exactly in
disguise, for he had no mind to act a part, but masked so that he
should not be recognised as uninvited, and should have an
opportunity of watching Emmeline, concerning whose engagement with a
young cavalry officer there had lately been reports, which, however,
before his dream, had caused him less uneasiness than many such
preceding. The same moment the thought was a resolve.

I must mention that no one whatever knew the degree of his intimacy
with Emmeline, or that he had any ground for considering her engaged
to him. Secrecy added much to the zest of Emmeline's pleasures.
Everyone knew that he was a devoted admirer--but therein to be
classed with a host.

For concealment, he contented himself with a large travelling-cloak,
a tall felt hat, and a black silk mask.

He entered the grounds with an arrival of guests, and knowing the
place perfectly, contrived to see something of her behaviour, while
he watched for an opportunity of speaking to her alone,--a quest of
unlikely success. Hour after hour he watched, and all the time never
spoke or was spoken to.

Those who are acquainted with the mode of operation of the drug to
which I have referred, are aware that a man may be fully under its
influences without betraying to the ordinary observer that he is in
a condition differing from that of other men. But, in the living
dream wherein he walks, his feeling of time and of space is so
enlarged, or perhaps, I rather think, so subdivided to the
consciousness, that everything about him seems infinite both in
duration and extent; the action of a second has in it a
multitudinous gradation of progress, and a line of space is marked
out into millionths, of every one of which the consciousness takes
note. At the same time his senses are open to every impression from
things around him, only they appear to him in a strangely exalted
metamorphosis, the reflex of his own mental exaltation either in
bliss or torture, while the fancies of a man mingle with the facts
thus introduced and modify and are in turn modified by them; whereby
out of the chaos arises the mountain of an Earthly Paradise, whose
roots are in the depths of hell; and whether the man be with the
divine air and the clear rivers and the thousand-hued flowers on the
top, or down in the ice-lake with the tears frozen to hard lumps in
the hollows of his eyes so that he can no more have even the poor
consolation of weeping, is but the turning of a hair, so far at
least as his will has to do with it. The least intrusion of anything
painful, of any jar that cannot be wrought into the general harmony
of the vision, will suddenly alter its character, and from the
seventh heaven of speechless bliss the man may fall plumb down into
gulfs of horrible and torturing, it may be loathsome imaginings.

Now Leopold had taken a dose of the drug on his journey, and it was
later than usual, probably because of the motion, ere it began to
take effect. He had indeed ceased to look for any result from it,
when all at once, as he stood amongst the laburnums and lilacs of a
rather late spring, something seemed to burst in his brain, and that
moment he was Endymion waiting for Diana in her interlunar grove,
while the music of the spheres made the blossoms of a stately yet
flowering forest, tremble all with conscious delight.

Emboldened by his new condition, he drew nigh the house. They were
then passing from the ball to the supper-room, and he found the
tumult so distasteful to his mood of still ecstasy that he would not
have entered had he not remembered that he had in his pocket a note
ready if needful to slip into her hand, containing only the words,
"Meet me for one long minute at the circle,"--a spot well known to
both: he threw his cloak Spanish fashion over his left shoulder,
slouched his hat, and entering stood in a shadowy spot she must pass
in going to or from the supper-room. There he waited, with the note
hid in his hand--a long time, yet not a weary one, such visions of
loveliness passed before his entranced gaze. At length SHE also
passed--lovely as the Diana whose dress she had copied--not quite so
perfectly as she had abjured her manners. She leaned trustingly on
the arm of some one, but Leopold never even looked at him. He slid
the note into her hand, which hung ungloved as inviting confidences.
With an instinct quickened and sharpened tenfold by much practice,
her fingers instantly closed upon it, but, not a muscle belonging to
any other part of her betrayed the intrusion of a foreign body: I do
not believe her heart gave one beat the more to the next minute. She
passed graceful on, her swan's-neck shining; and Leopold hastened
out to one of the windows of the ball-room, there to feast his eyes
upon her loveliness. But when he caught sight of her whirling in the
waltz with the officer of dragoons whose name he had heard coupled
with hers, and saw her flash on him the light and power of eyes
which were to him the windows of all the heaven he knew, as they
swam together in the joy of the rhythm, of the motion, of the music,
suddenly the whole frame of the dream wherein he wandered, trembled,
shook, fell down into the dreary vaults that underlie all the airy
castles that have other foundation than the will of the eternal
Builder. With the suddenness of the dark that follows the lightning,
the music changed to a dissonant clash of multitudinous cymbals, the
resounding clang of brazen doors, and the hundred-toned screams of
souls in torture. The same moment, from halls of infinite scope,
where the very air was a soft tumult of veiled melodies ever and
anon twisted into inextricable knots of harmony--under whose skyey
domes he swept upborne by chords of sound throbbing up against great
wings mighty as thought yet in their motions as easy and subtle, he
found himself lying on the floor of a huge vault, whose black slabs
were worn into many hollows by the bare feet of the damned as they
went and came between the chambers of their torture opening off upon
every side, whence issued all kinds of sickening cries, and mingled
with the music to which, with whips of steel, hellish executioners
urged the dance whose every motion was an agony. His soul fainted
within him, and the vision changed. When he came to himself, he lay
on the little plot of grass amongst the lilacs and laburnums where
he had asked Emmeline to meet him. Fevered with jealousy and the
horrible drug, his mouth was parched like an old purse, and he found
himself chewing at the grass to ease its burning and drought. But
presently the evil thing resumed its sway and fancies usurped over
facts. He thought he was lying in an Indian jungle, close by the
cave of a beautiful tigress, which crouched within, waiting the
first sting of reviving hunger to devour him. He could hear her
breathing as she slept, but he was fascinated, paralyzed, and could
not escape, knowing that, even if with mighty effort he succeeded in
moving a finger, the motion would suffice to wake her, and she would
spring upon him and tear him to pieces. Years upon years passed
thus, and he still lay on the grass in the jungle, and still the
beautiful tigress slept. But however far apart the knots upon the
string of time may lie, they must pass: an angel in white stood over
him, his fears vanished, the waving of her wings cooled him, and she
was the angel whom he had loved and loved from all eternity, in whom
was his ever-and-only rest. She lifted him to his feet, gave him her
hand, they walked away, and the tigress was asleep for ever. For
miles and miles, as it seemed to his exaltation, they wandered away
into the woods, to wander in them for ever, the same violet blue,
flashing with roseate stars, for ever looking in through the
tree-tops, and the great leafy branches hushing, ever hushing them,
as with the voices of child-watching mothers, into peace, whose
depth is bliss.

"Have you nothing to say now I am come?" said the angel.

"I have said all. I am at rest," answered the mortal.

"I am going to be married to Captain Hodges," said the angel.

And with the word, the forests of heaven vanished, and the halls of
Eblis did not take their place:--a worse hell was there--the cold
reality of an earth abjured, and a worthless maiden walking by his
side. He stood and turned to her. The shock had mastered the drug.
They were only in the little wooded hollow, a hundred yards from the
house. The blood throbbed in his head as from the piston of an
engine. A horrid sound of dance-music was in his ears. Emmeline, his
own, stood in her white dress, looking up in his face, with the
words just parted from her lips, "I am going to be married to
Captain Hodges." The next moment she threw her arms round his neck,
pulled his face to hers, and kissed him, and clung to him.

"Poor Leopold!" she said, and looked in his face with her electric
battery at full power; "does it make him miserable, then?--But you
know it could not have gone on like this between you and me for
ever! It was very dear while it lasted, but it must come to an end."

Was there a glimmer of real pity and sadness in those wondrous eyes?
She laughed--was it a laugh of despair or of exultation?--and hid
her face on his bosom. And what was it that awoke in Leopold? Had
the drug resumed its power over him? Was it rage at her mockery, or
infinite compassion for her despair? Would he slay a demon, or
ransom a spirit from hateful bonds? Would he save a woman from
disgrace and misery to come? or punish her for the vilest falsehood?
Who can tell? for Leopold himself never could. Whatever the feeling
was, its own violence erased it from his memory, and left him with a
knife in his hand, and Emmeline lying motionless at his feet. It was
a knife the Scotch highlanders call a skean-dhu, sharp-pointed as a
needle, sharp-edged as a razor, and with one blow of it he had cleft
her heart, and she never cried or laughed any more in that body
whose charms she had degraded to the vile servitude of her vanity.
The next thing he remembered was standing on the edge of the shaft
of a deserted coalpit, ready to cast himself down. Whence came the
change of resolve, he could not tell, but he threw in his cloak and
mask, and fled. The one thought in his miserable brain was his
sister. Having murdered one woman, he was fleeing to another for
refuge. Helen would save him.

How he had found his way to his haven, he had not an idea. Searching
the newspapers, Helen heard that a week had elapsed between the
"mysterious murder of a young lady in Yorkshire" and the night on
which he came to her window.



"Well, Poldie, after all I would rather be you than she!" cried
Helen indignantly, when she had learned the whole story.

It was far from the wisest thing to say, but she meant it, and
clasped her brother to her bosom.

Straightway the poor fellow began to search for all that man could
utter in excuse, nay in justification, not of himself, but of the
woman he had murdered, appropriating all the blame. But Helen had
recognised in Emmeline the selfishness which is the essential
murderer, nor did it render her more lenient towards her that the
same moment, with a start of horror, she caught a transient glimpse
of the same in herself. But the discovery wrought in the other
direction, and the tenderness she now lavished upon Leopold left all
his hopes far behind. Her brother's sin had broken wide the
feebly-flowing springs of her conscience, and she saw that in
idleness and ease and drowsiness of soul, she had been forgetting
and neglecting even the being she loved best in the universe. In the
rushing confluence of love, truth, and indignation, to atone for
years of half-love, half-indifference, as the past now appeared to
her, she would have spoiled him terribly, heaping on him caresses
and assurances that he was far the less guilty and the more injured
of the two; but Leopold's strength was exhausted, and he fell back
in a faint.

While she was occupied with his restoration many things passed
through her mind. Amongst the rest she saw it would be impossible
for her to look after him sufficiently where he was, that the
difficulty of feeding him even would be great, that very likely he
was on the borders of an illness, when he would require constant
attention, that the danger of discovery was great--in short, that
some better measures must be taken for his protection and the
possibility of her ministrations. If she had but a friend to
consult! Ever that thought returned. Alas! she had none on whose
counsel or discretion either she could depend. When at length he
opened his eyes, she told him she must leave him now, but when it
was dark she would come again, and stay with him till dawn. Feebly
he assented, seeming but half aware of what she said, and again
closed his eyes. While he lay thus, she gained possession of his
knife. It left its sheath behind it, and she put it naked in her
pocket. As she went from the room, feeling like a mother abandoning
her child in a wolf-haunted forest, his eyes followed her to the
door with a longing, wild, hungry look, and she felt the look
following her still through the wood and across the park and into
her chamber, while the knife in her pocket felt like a spellbound
demon waiting his chance to work them both a mischief. She locked
her door and took it out, and as she put it carefully away, fearful
lest any attempt to destroy it might lead to its discovery, she
caught sight of her brother's name engraved in full upon the silver
mounting of the handle. "What if he had left it behind him!" she
thought with a shudder.

But a reassuring strength had risen in her mind with Leopold's
disclosure. More than once on her way home she caught herself
reasoning that the poor boy had not been to blame at all--that he
could not help it--that she had deserved nothing less. Her
conscience speedily told her that in consenting to such a thought,
she herself would be a murderess. Love her brother she must; excuse
him she might, for honest excuse is only justice; but to uphold the
deed would be to take the part of hell against heaven. Still the
murder did not, would not seem so frightful after she had heard the
whole tale, and she found it now required far less effort to face
her aunt. If she was not the protectress of the innocent, she was of
the grievously wronged, and the worst wrong done him was the crime
he had been driven to do. She lay down and slept until dinner time,
woke refreshed, and sustained her part during the slow meal,
neartened by the expectation of seeing her brother again and in
circumstance of less anxiety when the friendly darkness had come,
and all eyes but theirs were closed. She talked to her aunt and a
lady who dined with them as if she had the freest heart in the
world; the time passed; the converse waned; the hour arrived; adieus
were said; drowsiness came. All the world of Glaston was asleep; the
night on her nest was brooding upon the egg of to-morrow; the moon
was in darkness; and the wind was blowing upon Helen's hot forehead,
as she slid like a thief across the park.

Her mind was in a tumult of mingled feelings, all gathered about the
form of her precious brother. One moment she felt herself
ministering to the father she had loved so dearly, in protecting his
son; the next the thought of her father had vanished, and all was
love for the boy whose memories filled the shadow of her childhood;
about whom she had dreamed night after night as he crossed the great
sea to come to her; who had crept into her arms timidly, and
straightway turned into the daintiest merriest playmate; who had
charmed her even in his hot-blooded rages, when he rushed at her
with whatever was in his hand at the moment. Then she had laughed
and dared him; now she shuddered to remember. Again, and this was
the feeling that generally prevailed, she was a vessel overflowing
with the mere woman-passion of protection: the wronged, abused,
maddened, oppressed, hunted human thing was dependent upon her, and
her alone, for any help or safety he was ever to find. Sometimes it
was the love of a mother for her sick child; sometimes that of a
tigress crouching over her wounded cub and licking its hurts. All
was coloured with admiration of his beauty and grace, and mingled
with boundless pity for their sad overclouding and defeature! Nor
was the sense of wrong to herself in wrong to her own flesh and
blood wanting. The sum of all was a passionate devotion of her being
to the service of her brother.

I suspect that at root the loves of the noble wife, the great-souled
mother, and the true sister, are one. Anyhow, they are all but
glints on the ruffled waters of humanity of the one changeless
enduring Light.



She had reached the little iron gate, which hung on one hinge only,
and was lifting it from the ground to push it open, when sudden
through the stillness came a frightful cry. Had they found him
already? Was it a life-and-death struggle going on within? For one
moment she stood rooted; the next she flew to the door. When she
entered the hall, however, the place was silent as a crypt. Could it
have been her imagination? Again, curdling her blood with horror,
came the tearing cry, a sort of shout of agony. All in the dark, she
flew up the stair, calling him by name, fell twice, rose as if on
wings, and flew again until she reached the room. There all was
silence and darkness. With trembling hands she found her match-box
and struck a light, uttering all the time every soothing word she
could think of, while her heart quavered in momentary terror of
another shriek. It came just as the match flamed up in her fingers,
and an answering shriek from her bosom tore its way through her
clenched teeth, and she shuddered like one in an ague. There sat her
brother on the edge of the bedstead staring before him with fixed
eyes and terror-stricken countenance. He had not heard her enter,
and saw neither the light nor her who held it. She made haste to
light the candle, with mighty effort talking to him still, in gasps
and chokings, but in vain; the ghastly face continued unchanged, and
the wide-open eyes remained fixed. She seated herself beside him,
and threw her arms around him. It was like embracing a marble
statue, so moveless, so irresponsive was he. But presently he gave a
kind of shudder, the tension of his frame relaxed, and the soul
which had been absorbed in its own visions, came forward to its
windows, cast from them a fleeting glance, then dropped the

"Is it you, Helen?" he said, shuddering, as he closed his eyes and
laid his head on her shoulder. His breath was like that of a
furnace. His skin seemed on fire. She felt his pulse: it was
galloping. He was in a fever--brain-fever, probably, and what was
she to do? A thought came to her. Yes, it was the only possible
thing. She would take him home. There, with the help of the
household, she might have a chance of concealing him--a poor one,
certainly! but here, how was she even to keep him to the house in
his raving fits?

"Poldie, dear!" she said, "you must come with me. I am going to take
you to my own room, where I can nurse you properly, and need not
leave you. Do you think you could walk as far?"

"Walk! Yes--quite well: why not?"

"I am afraid you are going to be ill, Poldie; but, however ill you
may feel, you must promise me to try and make as little noise as you
can, and never cry out if you can help it. When I do like this," she
went on, laying her finger on his lips, "you must be silent

"I will do whatever you tell me, Helen, if you will only promise not
to leave me, and, when they come for me, to give me poison."

She promised, and made haste to obliterate every sign that the room
had been occupied. She then took his arm and led him out. He was
very quiet--too quiet and submissive, she thought--seemed sleepy,
revived a little when they reached the open air, presently grew
terrified, and kept starting and looking about him as they crossed
the park, but never spoke a word. By the door in the sunk fence they
reached the garden, and were soon in Helen's chamber, where she left
him to get into bed while she went to acquaint her aunt of his
presence in the house. Hard and unreasonable, like most human
beings, where her prejudices were concerned, she had, like all other
women, sympathy with those kinds of suffering which by experience
she understood. Mental distress was beyond her, but for the solace
of another's pain she would even have endured a portion herself.
When therefore, she heard Helen's story, how her brother had come to
her window, that he was ill with brain-fever, as she thought, and
talked wildly, she quite approved of her having put him to bed in
her own room, and would have got up to help in nursing him. But
Helen persuaded her to have her night's rest, and begged her to join
with her in warning the servants not to mention his presence in the
house, on the ground that it might get abroad that he was out of his
mind. They were all old and tolerably faithful, and Leopold had been
from childhood such a favourite, that she hoped thus to secure their

"But, child, he must have the doctor," said her aunt.

"Yes, but I will manage him. What a good thing old Mr. Bird is gone!
He was such a gossip! We must call in the new doctor, Mr. Faber. I
shall see that he understands. He has his practice to make, and will
mind what I say."

"Why, child, you are as cunning as an old witch!" said her aunt. "It
is very awkward," she went on. "What miserable creatures men
are--from first to last! Out of one scrape into another from babies
to old men! Would you believe it, my dear?--your uncle, one of the
best of men, and most exemplary of clergymen--why, I had to put on
his stockings for him every day he got up! Not that my services
stopped there either, I can tell you! Latterly I wrote more than
half his sermons for him. He never would preach the same sermon
twice, you see. He made that a point of honour; and the consequence
was that at last he had to come to me. His sermons were nothing the
losers, I trust, or our congregation either. I used the same
commentaries he did, and you would hardly believe how much I enjoyed
the work.--Poor dear boy! we must do what we can for him."

"I will call you if I find it necessary, aunt. I must go to him now,
for he cannot bear me out of his sight. Don't please send for the
doctor till I see you again."

When she got back to her room, to her great relief she found Leopold
asleep. The comfort of the bed after his terrible exhaustion and the
hardships he had undergone, had combined with the drug under whose
influences he had more or less been ever since first he appeared at
Helen's window, and he slept soundly.

But when he woke, he was in a high fever, and Mr. Faber was
summoned. He found the state of his patient such that no amount of
wild utterance could have surprised him. His brain was burning and
his mind all abroad: he tossed from side to side and talked
vehemently--but even to Helen unintelligibly.

Mr. Faber had not attended medical classes and walked the hospitals
without undergoing the influences of the unbelief prevailing in
those regions, where, on the strength of a little knowledge of the
human frame, cartloads of puerile ignorance and anile vulgarity, not
to mention obscenity, are uttered in the name of truth by men who
know nothing whatever of the things that belong to the deeper nature
believed in by the devout and simple, and professed also by many who
are perhaps yet farther from a knowledge of its affairs than those
who thus treat them with contempt. When therefore he came to
practise in Glaston, he brought his quota of yeast into the old
bottle of that ancient and slumberous town. But as he had to gain
for himself a practice, he was prudent enough to make no display of
the cherished emptiness of his swept and garnished rooms. I do not
mean to blame him. He did not fancy himself the holder of any
Mephistophelean commission for the general annihilation of belief
like George Bascombe, only one from nature's bureau of ways and
means for the cure of the ailing body--which, indeed, to him,
comprised all there was of humanity. He had a cold, hard,
business-like manner, which, however admirable on some grounds,
destroyed any hope Helen had cherished of finding in him one to whom
she might disclose her situation.

He proved himself both wise and skilful, yet it was weeks before
Leopold began to mend. By the time the fever left him, he was in
such a prostrate condition, that it was very doubtful whether yet he
could live, and Helen had had to draw largely even upon her fine
stock of health.

Her ministration continued most exhausting. Yet now she thought of
her life as she had never thought of it before, namely as a thing of
worth. It had grown precious to her since it had become the stay of
Leopold's. Notwithstanding the terrible state of suspense and horror
in which she now lived, seeming to herself at times an actual sharer
in her brother's guilt, she would yet occasionally find herself
exulting in the thought of being the guardian angel he called her.
Now that by his bedside hour plodded after hour in something of
sameness and much of weariness, she yet looked back on her past as
on the history of a slug.

During all the time she scarcely saw her cousin George, and indeed,
she could hardly tell why, shrunk from him. In the cold, bright,
shadowless, north-windy day of his presence, there was little
consolation to be gathered, and for strength--to face him made a
fresh demand upon the little she had. Her physical being had
certainly lost. But the countenance which, after a long interval of
absence, the curate at length one morning descried in the midst of
the congregation, had, along with its pallor and look of hidden and
suppressed trouble, gathered the expression of a higher order of
existence. Not that she had drawn a single consoling draught from
any one of the wells of religion, or now sought the church for the
sake of any reminder of something found precious: the great quiet
place drew her merely with the offer of its two hours' restful
stillness. The thing which had elevated her was simply the fact
that, without any thought, not to say knowledge of him, she had yet
been doing the will of the Heart of the world. True she had been but
following her instinct, and ministering--not to humanity from an
enlarged affection, but only to the one being she best loved in the
world--a small merit surely!--yet was it the beginning of the way of
God, the lovely way, and therefore the face of the maiden had begun
to shine with a light which no splendour of physical health, no
consciousness of beauty, however just, could have kindled there.



The visits of Wingfold to the little people at the gate not only
became frequent, but more and more interesting to him, and as his
office occasioned few demands on his attention, Polwarth had plenty
of time to give to one who sought instruction in those things which
were his very passion. He had never yet had any pupil but his niece,
and to find another, and one whose soul was so eager after that of
which he had such long-gathered store to dispense, was a keen, pure,
and solemn delight. It was that for which he had so often prayed--
an outlet for the living waters of his spirit into dry and thirsty
lands. He had not much faculty for writing, although now and then he
would relieve his heart in verse; and if he had a somewhat
remarkable gift of discourse, to attempt public utterance would have
been but a vain exposure of his person to vulgar mockery. In
Wingfold he had found a man docile and obedient, both thirsting
after, and recognizant of the truth, and if he might but aid him in
unsealing the well of truth in his own soul, the healing waters
might from him flow far and near. Not as the little Zacchus who
pieced his own shortness with the length of the sycamore tree, so to
rise above his taller brethren and see Jesus, little Polwarth would
lift tall Wingfold on his shoulders, first to see, and then cry
aloud to his brethren who was at hand.

For two or three Sundays, the curate, largely assisted by his
friend, fed his flock with his gleanings from other men's harvests,
and already, though it had not yet come to his knowledge, one
consequence was, that complaints, running together, made a pool of
discontent, and a semi-public meeting had been held, wherein was
discussed, and not finally negatived, the propriety of communicating
with the rector on the subject. Some however held that, as the
incumbent paid so little attention to his flock, it would be better
to appeal to the bishop, and acquaint him with the destitution of
that portion of his oversight. But things presently took a new turn,
at first surprising, soon alarming to some, and at length, to not a
few, appalling.

Obedient to Polwarth's instructions, Wingfold had taken to his New
Testament. At first, as he read and sought to understand, ever and
anon some small difficulty, notably, foremost of all, the
discrepancy in the genealogies--I mention it merely to show the sort
of difficulty I mean--would insect-like shoot out of the darkness,
and sting him in the face. Some of these he pursued, encountered,
crushed--and found he had gained next to nothing by the victory; and
Polwarth soon persuaded him to let such, alone for the present,
seeing they involved nothing concerning the man at a knowledge of
whom it was his business to arrive. But when it came to the
perplexity caused by some of the sayings of Jesus himself, it was
another matter. He MUST understand these, he thought, or fail to
understand the man. Here Polwarth told him that, if, after all, he
seemed to fail, he must conclude that possibly the meaning of the
words was beyond him, and that the understanding of them depended on
a more advanced knowledge of Jesns himself; for, while words reveal
the speaker, they must yet lie in the light of something already
known of the speaker to be themselves intelligible. Between the mind
and the understanding of certain hard utterances, therefore, there
must of necessity lie a gradation of easier steps. And here Polwarth
was tempted to give him a far more important, because more
immediately practical hint, but refrained, from the dread of
weakening, by PRESENTATION, the force of a truth which, in
DISCOVERY, would have its full effect. For he was confident that the
curate, in the temper which was now his, must ere long come
immediately upon the truth towards which he was tempted to point

On one occasion when Wingfold had asked him whether he saw the
meaning of a certain saying of our Lord, Polwarth answered thus:

"I think I do, but whether I could at present make you see it, I
cannot tell. I suspect it is one of those concerning which I have
already said that you have yet to understand Jesus better before you
can understand them. Let me, just to make the nature of what I state
clearer to you, ask you one question: tell me, if you can, what,
primarily, did Jesus, from his own account of himself, come into the
world to do?"

"To save it," answered Wingfold.

"I think you are wrong," returned Polwarth. "Mind I said PRIMARILY.
You will yourself come to the same conclusion by and by. Either our
Lord was a phantom--a heresy of potent working in the minds of many
who would be fierce in its repudiation--or he was a very man,
uttering the heart of his life that it might become the life of his
brethren; and if so, an honest man can never ultimately fail of
getting at what he means. I have seen him described somewhere as a
man dominated by the passion of humanity--or something like that.
The description does not, to my mind, even shadow the truth. Another
passion, if such I may dare to call it, was the light of his life,
dominating even that which would yet have been enough to make him
lay down his life."

Wingfold went away pondering.

Though Polwarth read little concerning religion except the New
Testament, he could yet have directed Wingfold to several books
which might have lent him good aid in his quest after the real
likeness of the man he sought; but he greatly desired that on the
soul of his friend the dawn should break over the mountains of
Juda--the light, I mean, flow from the words themselves of the Son
of Man. Sometimes he grew so excited about his pupil and his
progress, and looked so anxiously for the news of light in his
darkness, that he could not rest at home, but would be out all day
in the park--praying, his niece believed, for the young parson. And
little did Wingfold suspect that, now and again when his lamp was
burning far into the night because he struggled with some hard
saying, the little man was going round and round the house, like one
muttering charms, only they were prayers for his friend: ill
satisfied with his own feeble affection, he would supplement it with
its origin, would lay hold upon the riches of the Godhead, crying
for his friend to "the first stock-father of gentleness;"--folly
all, and fair subject of laughter to such as George Bascombe, if
there be no God; but as Polwarth, with his whole, healthy, holy soul
believed there is a God--it was for him but simple common sense.

Still no daybreak--and now the miracles had grown troublesome! Could
Mr. Polwarth honestly say that he found no difficulty in believing
things so altogether out of the common order of events, and so
buried in the darkness and dust of antiquity that investigation was

Mr. Polwarth could not say that he had found no such difficulty.

"Then why should the weight of the story," said Wingfold, "the
weight of its proof, I mean, to minds like ours, coming so long
after, and by their education incapacitated for believing in such
things, in a time when the law of everything is searched into---"

"And as yet very likely as far from understood as ever," interposed
but not interrupted Polwarth.

"Why should the weight of its proof, I ask, be laid upon such
improbable things as miracles? That they are necessarily improbable,
I presume you will admit."

"Having premised that I believe every one recorded," said Polwarth,
"I heartily admit their improbability. But the WEIGHT of proof is
not, and never was laid upon them. Our Lord did not make much of
them, and did them far more for the individual concerned than for
the sake of the beholders. I will not however talk to you about them
now. I will merely say that it is not through the miracles you will
find the Lord, though, having found him, you will find him there
also. The question for you is not, Are the miracles true? but, Was
Jesus true? Again I say, you must find him--the man himself. When
you have found him, I may perhaps retort upon you the question--Can
you believe such improbable things as the miracles, Mr. Wingfold?"

The little man showed pretty plainly by the set of his lips that he
meant to say no more, and again Wingfold had, with considerable
dissatisfaction and no answer, to go back to his New Testament.



At length, one day, as he was working with a harmony, comparing
certain passages between themselves, and as variedly given in the
gospels, he fell into a half-thinking, half-dreaming mood, in which
his eyes, for some time unconsciously, rested on the verse, "Ye will
not come unto me that ye might have life:" it mingled itself with
his brooding, and by and by, though yet he was brooding rather than
meditating, the form of Jesus had gathered, in the stillness of his
mental quiescence, so much of reality that at length he found
himself thinking of him as of a true-hearted man, mightily in
earnest to help his fellows, who could not get them to mind what he
told them.

"Ah!" said the curate to himself, "if I had but seen him, would not
I have minded him!--would I not have haunted his steps, with
question upon question, until I got at the truth!"

Again the more definite thought vanished in the seething chaos of
reverie, which dured unbroken for a time,--until again suddenly rose
from memory to consciousness and attention the words: "Why call ye
me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"

"Good God!" he exclaimed, "here am I bothering over words, and
questioning about this and that, as if I were testing his fitness
for a post I had to offer him, and he all the time claiming my
obedience! I cannot even, on the spur of the moment at least, tell
one thing he wants me to do; and as to doing anything because he
told me--not once did I ever! But then how am I to obey him until I
am sure of his right to command? I just want to know whether I am to
call him Lord or not. No, that won't do either, for he says, Why
even of yourselves judge ye not what is right? And do I not
know--have I ever even doubted that what he said we ought to do was
the right thing to do? Yet here have I, all these years, been
calling myself a Christian, ministering, forsooth, in the temple of
Christ, as if he were a heathen divinity, who cared for songs and
prayers and sacrifices, and cannot honestly say I ever once in my
life did a thing because he said so, although the record is full of
his earnest, even pleading words! I have NOT been an honest man, and
how should a dishonest man be a judge over that man who said he was
the Christ of God? Would it be any wonder if the things he uttered
should be too high and noble to be by such a man recognized as

With this, yet another saying dawned upon, him: IF ANY MAN WILL DO

He went into his closet and shut to the door--came out again, and
went straight to visit a certain grievous old woman.

The next open result was, that, on the following Sunday, a man went
up into the pulpit who, for the first time in his life, believed he
had something to say to his fellow-sinners. It was not now the
sacred spoil of the best of gleaning or catering that he bore
thither with him, but the message given him by a light in his own
inward parts, discovering therein the darkness and the wrong.

He opened no sermon-case, nor read words from any book, save, with
trembling voice, these:


I pause for a moment in my narrative to request the sympathy of such
readers as may be capable of affording it, for a man whose honesty
makes him appear egotistic. When a man, finding himself in a false
position, is yet anxious to do the duties of that position until
such time as, if he should not in the meantime have verified it, and
become able to fill it with honesty, he may honourably leave it, I
think he may well be pardoned if, of inward necessity, he should
refer to himself in a place where such reference may be either the
greatest impiety, or the outcome of the truest devotion. In him it
was neither: it was honesty--and absorption in the startled gaze of
a love that believed it had caught a glimmer of the passing garment
of the Truth. Thus strengthened--might I not say inspired? for what
is the love of truth and the joy therein, if not a breathing into
the soul of the breath of life from the God of truth?--he looked
round upon his congregation as he had never dared until now--saw
face after face, and knew it--saw amongst the rest that of Helen
Lingard, so sadly yet not pitifully altered, with a doubt if it
could be she; trembled a little with a new excitement, which one
less modest or less wise might have taken--how foolishly!--instead
of the truth perceived, for the inspiration of the spirit; and,
sternly suppressing the emotion, said,

"My hearers, I come before you this morning to utter the first word
of truth it has ever been given to ME to utter."

His hearers stared both mentally and corporeally.

"Is he going to deny the Bible?" said some.

--"It will be the last," said others, "if the rector hear in time
how you have been disgracing yourself and profaning his pulpit."

"And," the curate went on, "it would be as a fire in my bones did I
attempt to keep it back.

"In my room, three days ago, I was reading the strange story of the
man who appeared in Palestine saying that he was the Son of God, and
came upon those words of his which I have now read in your hearing.
At their sound the accuser, Conscience, awoke in my bosom, and
asked, 'Doest thou the things he saith to thee?' And I thought with
myself,--'Have I this day done anything he says to me?--when did I
do anything I had heard of him? Did I ever'--to this it came at
last--'Did I ever, in all my life, do one thing because he said to
me DO THIS?' And the answer was NO, NEVER. Yet there I was, not only
calling myself a Christian, but on the strength of my Christianity,
it was to be presumed, living amongst you, and received by you, as
your helper on the way to the heavenly kingdom--a living falsehood,
walking and talking amongst you!"

"What a wretch!" said one man to himself, who made a large part of
his living by the sale of under-garments whose every stitch was an
untacking of the body from the soul of a seamstress. "Bah!" said
some. "A hypocrite, by his own confession!" said others.
"Exceedingly improper!" said Mrs. Ramshorn. "Unheard-of and most
unclerical behaviour! And actually to confess such paganism!" For
Helen, she waked up a little, began to listen, and wondered what he
had been saying that a wind seemed to have blown rustling among the
heads of the congregation.

"Having made this confession," Wingfold proceeded, "you will
understand that whatever I now say, I say to and of myself as much
as to and of any other to whom it may apply."

He then proceeded to show that faith and obedience are one and the
same spirit, passing as it were from room to room in the same heart:
what in the heart we call faith, in the will we call obedience. He
showed that the Lord refused absolutely the faith that found its
vent at the lips in the worshipping words, and not at the limbs in
obedient action--which some present pronounced bad theology, while
others said to themselves surely that at least was common sense. For
Helen, what she heard might be interesting to clergymen, or people
like her aunt who had to do with such matters, but to her it was
less than nothing and vanity, whose brother lay at home "sick in
heart and sick in head."

But hard thoughts of him could not stay the fountain of Wingfold's
utterance, which filled as it flowed. Eager after a right
presentation of what truth he saw, he dwelt on the mockery it would
be of any man to call him the wisest, the best, the kindest, yea and
the dearest of men, yet never heed either the smallest request or
the most urgent entreaty he made.

"A Socinian!" said Mrs. Ramshorn.

"There's stuff in the fellow!" said the rector's churchwarden, who
had been brought up a Wesleyan.

"He'd make a fellow fancy he did believe all his grandmother told
him!" thought Bascombe.

As he went on, the awakened curate grew almost eloquent. His face
shone with earnestness. Even Helen found her gaze fixed upon him,
though she had not a notion what he was talking about. He closed at
length with these words:

"After the confession I have now made to you, a confession which I
have also entreated everyone to whom it belongs to make to himself
and his God, it follows that I dare not call myself a Christian. How
should such a one as I know anything about that which, if it be true
at all, is the loftiest, the one all-absorbing truth in the
universe? How should such a fellow as I"--he went on, growing
scornful at himself in the presence of the truth--"judge of its
sacred probabilities? or, having led such a life of simony, be heard
when he declares that such a pretended message from God to men seems
too good to be true? The things therein contained I declare good,
yet went not and did them. Therefore am I altogether out of court,
and must not be heard in the matter.

"No, my hearers, I call not myself a Christian, but I call everyone
here who obeys the word of Jesus, who restrains anger, who declines
judgment, who practises generosity, who loves his enemies, who prays
for his slanderers, to witness my vow, that I will henceforth try to
obey him, in the hope that he whom he called God and his Father,
will reveal to him whom you call your Lord Jesus Christ, that into
my darkness I may receive the light of the world!"

"A professed infidel!" said Mrs. Ramshorn. "A clever one too! That
was a fine trap he laid for us, to prove us all atheists as well as
himself! As if any mere mortal COULD obey the instructions of the
Saviour! He was divine; we are but human!"

She might have added, "And but poor creatures as such," but did not
go so far, believing herself more than an average specimen.

But there was one shining face which, like a rising sun of love and
light and truth, "pillowed his chin," not "on an orient wave," but
on the book-board of a free seat. The eyes of it were full of tears,
and the heart behind it was giving that God and Father thanks, for
this was more, far more than he had even hoped for, save in the
indefinite future. The light was no longer present as warmth or
vivification alone, but had begun to shine as light in the heart of
his friend, to whom now, praised be God! the way lay open into all
truth. And when the words came, in a voice that once more trembled
with emotion--"Now to God the Father,"--he bent down his face, and
the poor, stunted, distorted frame and great grey head were
grievously shaken with the sobs of a mighty gladness. Truth in the
inward parts looked out upon him from the face of one who stood
before the people their self-denied teacher! How would they receive
it? It mattered not. Those whom the Father had drawn, would hear.

Polwarth neither sought the curate in the vestry, waited for him at
the church-door, nor followed him to his lodging. He was not of
those who compliment a man on his fine sermon. How grandly careless
are some men of the risk of ruin their praises are to their friends!
"Let God praise him!" said Polwarth; "I will only dare to love him."
He would not toy with his friend's waking Psyche.



It was the first Sunday Helen had gone to church since her brother
came to her. On the previous Sunday he had passed some crisis and
begun to improve, and by the end of the week was so quiet, that
longing for a change of atmosphere, and believing he might be left
with the housekeeper, she had gone to church. On her return she
heard he was no worse, although he had "been a-frettin' after her."
She hurried to him as if he had been her baby.

"What do you go to church for?" he asked, half-petulantly, like a
spoilt child, with languid eyes whence the hard fire had vanished.
"What's the use of it?"

He looked at her, waiting an answer.

"Not much," replied Helen. "I like the quiet and the music. That's

He seemed disappointed, and lay still for a few moments.

"In old times," he said at last, "the churches used to be a refuge:
I suppose that is why one can't help feeling as if some safety were
to be got from them yet.--Was your cousin George there this

"Yes, he went with us," answered Helen.

"I should like to see him. I want somebody to talk to."

Helen was silent. She was more occupied however in answering to
herself the question why she shrank so decidedly from bringing
Bascombe into the sick-room, than in thinking what she should say to
Leopold. The truth was the truth, and why should she object to
Leopold's knowing, or at least being told as well as herself, that
he need fear no punishment in the next world, whatever he might have
to encounter in this; that there was no frightful God who hated
wrong-doing to be terrified at; that even the badness of his own
action need not distress him, for he and it would pass away as the
blood he had shed had already vanished from the earth? Ought it not
to encourage the poor fellow?--But to what? To live on and endure
his misery, or to put an end to it and himself at once? Or perhaps
to plunge into vice that he might escape the consciousness of guilt
and the dread of the law?

I will not say that exactly such a train of thought as this passed
through her mind, but of whatever sort it was, it brought her no
nearer to a desire for the light of George Bascombe's presence by
the bedside of her guilty brother. At the same time her partiality
for her cousin made her justify his exclusion thus: "George is so
good himself, he is only fit for the company of good people. He
would not in the least understand my poor Poldie, and would be too
hard upon him."

Since her brother's appearance, in fact, she had seen very little of
her cousin, and this not merely because her presence was so much
required in the sick-chamber, but because she was herself unwilling
to meet him. She had felt, almost without knowing it, that his
character was unsympathetic, and that his loud, cold good-nature
could never recognise or justify such love as she bore to her
brother! Nor was this all; for, remembering how he had upon one
occasion expressed himself with regard to criminals, she feared even
to look in his face, lest his keen, questioning, unsparing eye
should read in her soul that she was the sister of a murderer.

Before this time however a hint of light had appeared in the clouds
that enwrapped her and Leopold: she had begun to doubt whether he
had really committed the crime of which he accused himself. There
had been no inquiry after him, except from his uncle, concerning his
absence from Cambridge, for which his sudden attack of brain fever
served as more than sufficient excuse. That there had been such a
murder, the newspapers left her no room to question--but might not
the relation in which he stood to the victim--the horror of her
death, the insidious approaches of the fever, and the influences of
that hateful drug, have combined to call up an hallucination of
blood-guiltiness? And what at length all but satisfied her of the
truth of her conjecture was that, when he began to recover, Leopold
seemed himself in doubt at times whether his sense of guilt had not
its origin in some one or other of the many dreams which had haunted
him throughout his illness, knowing only too well that it was long
since dreams had become to him more real than the greater part of
what was going on around him. To this blurring and confusing of
consciousness it probably contributed, that, in the first stages of
the fever, he was under the influence of the same drug which had
been working upon his brain up to the very moment when he committed
the crime.

During the week the hope had almost settled into conviction; and one
consequence was that, although she was not a whit more inclined to
introduce George Bascombe to the sick-chamber, she found herself not
only equal, but no longer averse to meeting him; and on the
following Saturday, when he presented himself as usual, come to
spend the Sunday, she listened to her aunt, and consented to go out
with him for a ride--in the evening, however, when Mrs. Rainshorn
herself, who had shown Leopold great and genuine kindness, would be
able to sit with him. They therefore had dinner early, and Helen
went again to her brother's room, unwilling to leave him a moment
until she gave up her charge to her aunt.

They had tea together, and Leopold was very quiet. It is wonderful
with what success the mind will accommodate itself, in its effort
after peace, to the presence of the most torturing thought. But
Helen took this quietness for a sign of innocence, not knowing that
the state of the feelings is neither test nor gauge of guilt. The
nearer perfection a character is, the louder is the cry of
conscience at the appearance of fault; and, on the other hand, the
worst criminals have had the easiest minds.

Helen also was quiet, and fell into a dreamy mood, watching her
brother, who every now and then turned on her a look of love and
gratitude which moved her heart to its very depths. Not until she
heard the horses coming round from the stable, did she rise to go
and change her dress.

"I shall not be long away from you, Poldie," she said.

"Do not forget me, Helen," he returned. "If you forget me, an enemy
will think of me."

His love comforted her, and yet further strengthened her faith in
his innocence; and it was with a kind of half-repose, timid,
wavering, and glad, upon her countenance--how different from the
old, dull, wooden quiescence!--that she joined her cousin in the
hall. A moment, and he had lifted her to the saddle, and was mounted
by her side.



A soft west wind, issuing as from the heart of a golden vase filled
with roses, met them the instant they turned out of the street,
walking their horses towards the park-gate.

Something--was it in the evening, or was it in his own soul?--had
prevailed to the momentary silencing of George Bascombe:--it may
have been but the influence of the cigar which Helen had begged him
to finish. Helen too was silent: she felt as if the low red sun,
straight into which they seemed to be riding, blotted out her being
in the level torrent of his usurping radiance. Neither of them spoke
a word until they had passed through the gate into the park.

It was a perfect English summer evening--warm, but not sultry. As
they walked their horses up the carriage way, the sun went down, and
as if he had fallen like a live coal into some celestial magazine of
colour and glow, straightway blazed up a slow explosion of crimson
and green in a golden triumph--pure fire, the smoke and fuel gone,
and the radiance alone left. And now Helen received the second
lesson of her initiation into the life of nature: she became aware
that the whole evening was thinking around her, and as the dusk grew
deeper and the night grew closer, the world seemed to have grown
dark with its thinking. Of late Helen had been driven herself to
think--if not deeply, yet intensely--and so knew what it was like,
and felt at home with the twilight.

They turned from the drive on to the turf. Their horses tossed up
their heads, and set off, unchecked, at a good pelting gallop,
across the open park. On Helen's cheek the wind blew cooling,
strong, and kind. As if flowing from some fountain above, in an
unseen unbanked river, down through the stiller ocean of the air, it
seemed to bring to her a vague promise, almost a precognition, of
peace--which, however, only set her longing after something--she
knew not what--something of which she only knew that it would fill
the longing the wind had brought her. The longing grew and
extended--went stretching on and on into an infinite of rest. And as
they still galloped, and the light-maddened colours sank into smoky
peach, and yellow green, and blue gray, the something swelled and
swelled in her soul, and pulled and pulled at her heart, until the
tears were running down her face: for fear Bascombe should see them,
she gave her horse the rein, and fled from him into the friendly
dusk that seemed to grade time into eternity.

Suddenly she found herself close to a clump of trees, which overhung
the deserted house. She had made a great circuit without knowing it.
A pang shot to her heart, and her tears ceased to flow. The night,
silent with thought, held THAT also in its bosom! She drew rein,
turned, and waited for Bascombe.

"What a chase you've given me, Helen!" he cried, while yet pounding
away some score of yards off.

"A wild-goose one you mean, cousin?"

"It would have been if I had thought to catch you on this ancient

"Don't abuse the old horse, George: he has seen better days. I would
gladly have mounted you more to your mind, but you know I could
not--except indeed I had given you my Fanny, and taken the old horse
myself. I have ridden him."

"The lady ought always to be the better mounted," returned George
coolly. "For my part, I much prefer it, because then I need not be
anxious about whether I am boring her or not: if I am, she can run

"You cannot suppose I thought you a bore to-night. A more sweetly
silent gentleman none could wish for squire."

"Then it was my silence bored you.--Shall I tell you what I was
thinking about?"

"If you like. I was thinking how pleasant it would be to ride on and
on into eternity," said Helen.

"That feeling of continuity," returned George, "is a proof of the
painlessness of departure. No one can ever know when he ceases to
be, because then he is not; and that is how some men come to fancy
they feel as if they were going to live for ever. But the worst of
it is that they no sooner fancy it, than it seems to them a probable
as well as delightful thing to go on and on and never cease. This
comes of the man's having no consciousness of ceasing, and when one
is comfortable, it always seems good to go on. A child is never
willing to turn from the dish of which he is eating to another. It
is more he wants, not another."

"That is if he likes it," said Helen.

"Everybody likes it," said George, "--more or less."

"I am not so sure of EVERYbody," replied Helen. "Do you imagine that
twisted little dwarf-woman that opened the gate for us is content
with her lot?"

"No, that is impossible--while she sees you and remains what she is.
But I said nothing of contentment. I was but thinking of the fools
who, whether content or not, yet want to live for ever, and so, very
conveniently, take their longing for immortality, which they call an
idea innate in the human heart, for a proof that immortality is
their rightful inheritance."

"How then do you account for the existence and universality of the
idea?" asked Helen, who had happened lately to come upon some
arguments on the other side.

But while she spoke thus indifferently she felt in her heart like
one who wakes from a delicious swim in the fairest of rivers, to
find that the clothes have slipped from the bed to the floor:--that
was all his river and all his swim!

"I account for its existence as I have just said; and for its
universality by denying it. It is NOT universal, for _I_ haven't

"At least you will not deny that men, even when miserable, shrink
from dying?"

"Anything, everything is unpleasant out of its due time. I will
allow, for the sake of argument, that the thought of dying is always
unpleasant. But wherefore so? Because, in the very act of thinking
it, the idea must always be taken from the time that suits with
it--namely, its own time, when it will at length, and ought at
length to come--and placed in the midst of the lively present, with
which assuredly it does not suit. To life, death must be always
hateful. In the rush and turmoil of effort, how distasteful even the
cave of the hermit--let ever such a splendid view spread abroad
before its mouth! But when it comes it will be pleasant enough, for
then its time will have come also--the man will be prepared for it
by decay and cessation. If one were to tell me that he had that
endless longing for immortality, of which hitherto I have only heard
at second hand, I would explain it to him thus:--Your life, I would
say, not being yet complete, still growing, feels in itself the
onward impulse of growth, and, unable to think of itself as other
than complete, interprets that onward impulse as belonging to the
time around it instead of the nature within it. Or rather let me
say, the man feels in himself the elements of more, and not being
able to grasp the notion of his own completeness, which is so far
from him, transposes the feeling of growth and sets it beyond
himself, translating it at the same time into an instinct of
duration, a longing after what he calls eternal life. But when the
man is complete, then comes decay and brings its own contentment
with it--as will also death, when it arrives in its own proper
season of fulness and ripeness."

Helen said nothing in reply. She thought her cousin very clever, but
could not enjoy what he said--not in the face of that sky, and in
the yet lingering reflection of the feelings it had waked in her. He
might be right, but now at least she wanted no more of it. She even
felt as if she would rather cherish a sweet deception for the
comfort of the moment in which the weaver's shuttle flew, than take
to her bosom a cold killing fact.

Such were indeed an unworthy feeling to follow! Of all things let us
have the truth--even of fact! But to deny what we cannot prove, not
even casts into our ice-house a spadeful of snow. What if the warm
hope denied should be the truth after all? What if it was the truth
in it that drew the soul towards it by its indwelling reality, and
its relations with her being, even while she took blame for
suffering herself to be enticed by a sweet deception? Alas indeed
for men if the life and the truth are not one, but fight against
each other! Surely it says something for the divine nature of him
that denies the divine, when he yet cleaves to what he thinks the
truth, although it denies the life, and blots the way to the better
from every chart!

"And what were you thinking of, George?" said Helen, willing to
change the subject.

"I was thinking," he answered, "let me see!--oh! yes--I was
thinking of that very singular case of murder. You must have seen it
in the newspapers. I have long had a doubt whether I were better
fitted for a barrister or a detective. I can't keep my mind off a
puzzling case.--You must have heard of this one--the girl they found
lying in her ball-dress in the middle of a wood--stabbed to the

"I do remember something of it," answered Helen, gathering a little
courage to put into her voice from the fact that her cousin could
hardly see her face. "Then the murderer has not been discovered?"

"That is the point of interest. Not a trace of him! Not a soul
suspected even!"

Helen drew a deep breath.

"Had it been in Rome, now," George went on. "But in a quiet country
place in England! The thing seems incredible! So artistically
done!--no struggle!--just one blow right to the heart, and the
assassin gone as if by magic!--no weapon dropped!--nothing to give a
clue! The whole thing suggests a practised hand.--But why such a one
for the victim? Had it been some false member of a secret society
thus immolated, one could understand it. But a merry girl at a
ball!--it IS strange! I SHOULD like to try the unravelling of it."

"Has nothing then been done?" said Helen with a gasp, to hide which
she moved in her saddle, as if readjusting her habit.

"Oh, everything--of course. There was instant pursuit on the
discovery of the body, but they seem to have got on the track of the
wrong man--or, indeed, for anything certain, of no man at all. A
coast-guardsman says that, on the night or rather morning in
question, he was approaching a little cove on the shore, not above a
mile from the scene of the tragedy, with an eye upon what seemed to
be two fishermen preparing to launch their boat, when he saw a third
man come running down the steep slope from the pastures above, and
jump into the stern of it. Ere he could reach the spot, they were
off, and had hoisted two lugsails. The moon was in the first of her
last quarter, and gave light enough for what he reported. But, when
inquiries founded on this evidence were made, nothing whatever could
be discovered concerning boat or men. The next morning no
fishing-boat was lacking, and no fisherman would confess to having
gone from that cove. The marks of the boat's keel, and of the men's
feet, on the sand, if ever there were any, had been washed out by
the tide. It was concluded that the thing had been pre-arranged and
provided for, and that the murderer had escaped, probably to
Holland. Thereupon telegrams were shot in all directions, but no
news could be gathered of any suspicious landing on the opposite
coast. There the matter rests, or at least has rested for many
weeks. Neither parents, relatives, nor friends appear to have a
suspicion of anyone."

"Are there no conjectures as to motives?" asked Helen, feeling with
joy her power of dissimulation gather strength.

"No end of them. She was a beautiful creature, they say,
sweet-tempered as a dove, and of course fond of admiration--whence
the conjectures all turn on jealousy. The most likely thing seems,
that she had some squire of low degree, of whom neither parents nor
friends knew anything. That they themselves suspect this, appears
likely from their more than apathy with regard to the discovery of
the villain. I am strongly inclined to take the matter in hand

"We must get him out of the country as soon as possible," thought

"I should hardly have thought it worthy of your gifts, George," she
said, "to turn police-man. For my part, I should not relish hunting
down any poor wretch."

"The sacrifice of individual choice is a claim society has upon each
of its members," returned Bascombe. "Every murderer hanged, or
better, imprisoned for life, is a gain to the community."

Helen said no more, and presently turned homewards, on the plea that
she must not be longer absent from her invalid.


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