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´╗┐Title: Thomas Wingfold, Curate V2
Author: MacDonald, George
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Thomas Wingfold, Curate V2" ***

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Team.



THOMAS WINGFOLD, CURATE.

By George MacDonald, LL.D.

IN THREE VOLUMES.

VOL II.



THOMAS WINGFOLD, CURATE.

CHAPTER I.

RACHEL AND HER UNCLE.



It was nearly dark when they arrived again at the lodge. Rachel
opened the gate for them. Without even a THANK YOU, they rode out.
She stood for a moment gazing after them through the dusk, then
turned with a sigh, and went into the kitchen, where her uncle sat
by the fire with a book in his hand.

"How I should like to be as well made as Miss Lingard!" she said,
seating herself by the lamp that stood on the deal-table. "It MUST
be a fine thing to be strong and tall, and able to look this way and
that without turning all your body along with your head, like the
old man that gathers the leeches in Wordsworth's poem. And what it
must be to sit on a horse as she does! You should have seen her go
flying like the very wind across the park! You would have thought
she and her horse were cut out of the same piece. I'm dreadfully
envious, uncle."

"No, my child; I know you better than you do yourself. There is a
great difference between _I_ WISH _I_ WAS and _I_ SHOULD LIKE TO
BE--as much as between a grumble and a prayer. To be content is not
to be satisfied. No one ought to be satisfied with the imperfect. It
is God's will that we should bear, and contentedly--because in
hope, looking for the redemption of the body. And we know he has a
ready servant who will one day set us free."

"Yes, uncle; I understand. You know I enjoy life: how could I help
it and you with me? But I don't think I ever go through the
churchyard without feeling a sort of triumph. 'There's for you!' I
say sometimes to the little crooked shadow that creeps along by my
side across the graves. 'You'll soon be caught and put inside!'--But
how am I to tell I mayn't be crooked in the next world as well as
this? That's what troubles me at times. There might be some
necessity for it, you know."

"Then will there be patience to bear it there also; that you may be
sure of. But I do not fear. It were more likely that those who have
not thanked God, but prided themselves that they were beautiful in
this world, should be crooked in the next. It would be like Dives
and Lazarus, you know. But God does what is best for them as well as
for us. We shall find one day that beauty and riches were the best
thing for those to whom they were given, as deformity and poverty
were the best for us."

"I wonder what sort of person I should have been if I had had a
straight spine!" said Rachel laughing.

"Hardly one so dear to your deformed uncle," said her companion in
ugliness.

"Then I'm glad I am as I am," rejoined Rachel.

"This conscious individuality of ours," said Polwarth, after a
thoughtful silence, "is to me an awful thing--the one thing that
seems in humanity like the onliness of God. Mine terrifies me
sometimes--looking a stranger to me--a limiting of myself--a
breaking in upon my existence--like a volcanic outburst into the
blue Sicilian air. When it thus manifests itself, I find no refuge
but the offering of it back to him who thought it worth making. I
say to him: 'Lord, it is thine, not mine;--see to it, Lord. Thou and
thy eternity are mine, Father of Jesus Christ.'"

He covered his eyes with his hands, and his lips grew white, and
trembled. Thought had turned into prayer, and both were silent for a
space. Rachel was the first to speak.

"I think I understand, uncle," she said. "I don't mind being God's
dwarf. But I would rather be made after his own image; this can't be
it. I should like to be made over again."

"And if the hope we are saved by be no mockery, if St. Paul was not
the fool of his own radiant imaginings, you will be, my child.--But
now let us forget our miserable bodies. Come up to my room, and I
will read you a few lines that came to me this morning in the park."

"Won't you wait for Mr. Wingfold, uncle? He will be here yet, I
think. It can't be ten o'clock. He always looks in on Saturdays as
he goes home from his walk. I should like you to read them to him
too. They will do him good, I know."

"I would, my dear, willingly, if I thought he would care for them.
But I don't think he would. They are not good enough verses. He has
been brought up on Horace, and, I fear, counts the best poetry the
neatest."

"I think you must be mistaken there, uncle; I have heard him talk
delightfully about poetry."

"You must excuse me if I am shy of reading my poor work to any but
yourself, Rachel. My heart was wo much in it, and the subject is so
sacred--"

"I am sorry you should think your pearls too good to cast before Mr.
Wingfold, uncle," said Rachel, with a touch of disappointed temper.

"Nay, nay, child," returned Polwarth, "that was not a good thing to
say. What gives me concern is, that there is so much of the rough
dirty shell sticking about them, that to show them would be to wrong
the truth in them."

Rachel seldom took long to repent. She came slowly to her uncle,
where he stood with the lamp in his hand, looking in his face with a
heavenly contrition, and saying nothing. When she reached him, she
dropped on her knees, and kissed the hand that hung by his side. Her
temper was poor Rachel's one sore-felt trouble.

Polwarth stooped and kissed her on the forehead, raised her, and
leading her to the stair, stood aside to let her go first. But when
she had been naughty Rachel would never go before her uncle, and she
drew back. With a smile of intelligence he yielded and led the way.
But ere they had climbed to the top, Rachel heard Mr. Wingfold's
step, and went down again to receive him.



CHAPTER II.

A DREAM.



Invited to ascend, Wingfold followed Rachel to her uncle's room, and
there, whether guided by her or not, the conversation presently took
such a turn that at length, of his own motion, Polwarth offered to
read his verses. From the drawer of his table he took a scratched
and scored halfsheet, and--not in the most melodious of voices, yet
in one whose harshness and weakness could not cover a certain
refinement of spiritual tenderness--read as follows:

    Lord, hear my discontent: All blank I stand,
    A mirror polished by thy hand;
    Thy sun's beams flash and flame from me--
    I cannot help it: here I stand, there he;
    To one of them I cannot say--
    Go, and on yonder water play.
    Nor one poor ragged daisy can I fashion--
    I do not make the words of this my limping passion.
    If I should say: Now I will think a thought,
    Lo! I must wait, unknowing,
    What thought in me is growing,
    Until the thing to birth is brought;
    Nor know I then what next will come
    From out the gulf of silence dumb.
    I am the door the thing did find
    To pass into the general mind;
    I cannot say I think--
    I only stand upon the thought-well's brink;
    From darkness to the sun the water bubbles up--
    I lift it in my cup.
    Thou only thinkest--I am thought;
    Me and my thought thou thinkest. Nought
    Am I but as a fountain spout
    From which thy water welleth out.
    Thou art the only One, the All in all.
    --Yet when my soul on thee doth call
    And thou dost answer out of everywhere,
    I in thy allness have my perfect share.

While he read Rachel crept to his knee, knelt down, and laid her
head upon it.

If we are but the creatures of a day, yet surely were the
shadow-joys of this miserable pair not merely nobler in their
essence, but finer to the soul's palate than the shadow-joys of
young Hercules Bascombe--Helen and horses and all! Poor Helen I
cannot use for comparison, for she had no joy, save indeed the very
divine, though at present unblossoming one of sisterly love. Still,
and notwithstanding, if the facts of life are those of George
Bascombe's endorsing--AND HE CAN PROVE IT--let us by all means
learn and accept them, be they the worst possible. Meantime there
are truths that ought to be facts, and until he has proved that
there is no God, some of us will go feeling after him if haply we
may find him, and in him the truths we long to find true. Some of us
perhaps think we have seen him from afar, but we only know the
better that in the mood wherein such as Bascombe are, they will
never find him--which would no doubt be to them a comfort were it
not for a laughter. And if he be such as their idea of what we think
him, they ARE better without him. If, on the contrary, he be what
some of us really think him, their not seeking him will not perhaps
prevent him from finding them.

From likeness of nature, community of feeling, constant intercourse,
and perfect confidence, Rachel understood her uncle's verses with
sufficient ease to enjoy them at once in part, and, for the rest, to
go on thinking in the direction in which they would carry her; but
Wingfold, in whom honesty of disposition had blossomed at last into
honesty of action, after fitting pause, during which no word was
spoken, said:--

"Mr. Polwarth, where verse is concerned, I am simply stupid: when
read I cannot follow it. I did not understand the half of that poem.
I never have been a student of English verse, and indeed that part
of my nature which has to do with poetry, has been a good deal
neglected. Will you let me take those verses home with me?"

"I cannot do that, for they are not legible; but I will copy them
out for you."

"Will you give me them to-morrow? Shall you be at church?"

"That shall be just as you please: would you rather have me there or
not?"

"A thousand times rather," answered the curate. "To have one man
there who knows what I mean better than I can say it, is to have a
double soul and double courage.--But I came to-night mainly to tell
you that I have been much puzzled this last week to know how I ought
to regard the Bible--I mean as to its inspiration. What am I to say
about it?"

"Those are two distinct things. Why think of saying about it, before
you have anything to say? For yourself, however, let me ask if you
have not already found in the book the highest means of spiritual
education and development you have yet met with? If so, may not that
suffice for the present? It is the man Christ Jesus we have to know,
and the Bible we have to use to that end--not for theory or
dogma.--I will tell you a strange dream I had once, not long ago."

Rachel's face brightened. She rose, got a little stool, and setting
it down close by the chair on which her uncle was perched, seated
herself at his feet, with her eyes on the ground, to listen.

"About two years ago," said Polwarth, "a friend sent me Tauchnitz's
edition of the English New Testament, which has the different
readings of the three oldest known manuscripts translated at the
foot of the page. The edition was prepared chiefly for the sake of
showing the results of the collation of the Sinaitic manuscript, the
oldest of all, so named because it was found--a few years ago, by
Tischendorf--in a monastery on Mount Sinai--nowhere else than
there! I received it with such exultation as brought on an attack of
asthma, and I could scarce open it for a week, but lay with it under
my pillow. When I did come to look at it, my main wonder was to find
the differences from the common version so few and small. Still
there were some such as gave rise to a feeling far above mere
interest--one in particular, the absence of a word that had troubled
me, not seeming like a word of our Lord, or consonant with his
teaching. I am unaware whether the passage has ever given rise to
controversy."

"May I ask what word it was?" interrupted Wingfold, eagerly.

"I will not say," returned Polwarth. "Not having troubled you, you
would probably only wonder why it should have troubled me. For my
purpose in mentioning the matter, it is enough to say that I had
turned with eagerness to the passage wherein it occurs, as given in
two of the gospels in our version. Judge my delight in discovering
that in the one gospel the whole passage was omitted by the two
oldest manuscripts, and in the other just the one word that had
troubled me, by the same two. I would not have you suppose me
foolish enough to imagine that the oldest manuscript must be the
most correct; but you will at once understand the sense of room and
air which the discovery gave me notwithstanding, and I mention it
because it goes both to account for the dream that followed and to
enforce its truth. Pray do not however imagine me a believer in
dreams more than in any other source of mental impressions. If a
dream reveal a principle, that principle is a revelation, and the
dream is neither more NOR LESS valuable than a waking thought that
does the same. The truth conveyed is the revelation. I do not deny
that facts have been learned in dreams, but I would never call the
communication of a mere fact a revelation. Truth alone, beheld as
such by the soul, is worthy of the name. Facts, however, may
themselves be the instruments of such revelation.

"The dream I am now going to tell you was clearly enough led up to
by my waking thoughts. For I had been saying to myself ere I fell
asleep: 'On the very Mount Sinai, that once burned with heavenly
fire, and resounded with the thunder of a visible Presence, now old
and cold, and swathed in the mists of legend and doubt, was
discovered the most reverend, because most ancient record of the new
dispensation which dethroned that mountain, and silenced the
thunders of the pedagogue law! Is it not possible that yet, in some
ancient convent, insignificant to the eye of the traveller as modern
Nazareth would be but for its ancient story, some one of the
original gospel-manuscripts may lie, truthful and unblotted from the
hand of the very evangelist?--Oh lovely parchment!' I thought--'if
eye of man might but see thee! if lips of man might kiss thee!' and
my heart swelled like the heart of a lover at the thought of such a
boon.--Now, as you know, I live in a sort of live coffin here,"
continued the little man, striking his pigeon-breast, "with a
barrel-organ of discords in it, constantly out of order in one way
or another; and hence it comes that my sleep is so imperfect, and my
dreams run more than is usual, as I believe, on in the direction of
my last waking thoughts. Well, that night, I dreamed thus: I was in
a desert. It was neither day nor night to me. I saw neither sun,
moon, nor stars. A heavy, yet half-luminous cloud hung over the
visible earth. My heart was beating fast and high, for I was
journeying towards a certain Armenian convent, where I had good
ground for hoping I should find the original manuscript of the
fourth gospel, the very handwriting of the apostle John. That the
old man did not write it himself, I never thought of that in my
dream.

"After I had walked on for a long, anything but weary time, I saw
the level horizon line before me broken by a rock, as it seemed,
rising from the plain of the desert. I knew it was the monastery. It
was many miles away, and as I journeyed on it grew and grew, until
it swelled huge as a hill against the sky. At length I came up to
the door, iron-clamped, deep-set in a low thick wall. It stood wide
open. I entered, crossed a court, reached the door of the monastery
itself, and again entered. Every door to which I came stood open,
but priest nor guide came to meet me, and I saw no man, and at
length looked for none, but used my best judgment to get deeper and
deeper into the building, for I scarce doubted that in its inmost
penetralia I should find the treasure I sought. At last I stood
before a door hung with a curtain of rich workmanship, torn in the
middle from top to bottom. Through the rent I passed into a stone
cell. In the cell stood a table. On the table was a closed book. Oh
how my heart beat! Never but then have I known the feeling of utter
preciousness in a thing possessed. What doubts and fears would not
this one lovely, oh unutterably beloved volume, lay at rest for
ever! How my eyes would dwell upon every stroke of every letter the
hand of the dearest disciple had formed! Nearly eighteen hundred
years--and there it lay!--and there WAS a man who DID hear the
Master say the words, and did set them down! I stood motionless, and
my soul seemed to wind itself among the leaves, while my body stood
like a pillar of salt, lost in its own gaze. At last, with sudden
daring, I made a step towards the table, and, bending with awe,
stretched out my hand to lay it upon the book. But ere my hand
reached it, another hand, from the opposite side of the table,
appeared upon it--an old, blue-veined, but powerful hand. I looked
up. There stood the beloved disciple! His countenance was as a
mirror which shone back the face of the Master. Slowly he lifted the
book, and turned away. Then first I saw behind him as it were an
altar whereon a fire of wood was burning, and a pang of dismay shot
to my heart, for I knew what he was about to do. He laid the book on
the burning wood, and regarded it with a smile as it shrunk and
shrivelled and smouldered to ashes. Then he turned to me and said,
while a perfect heaven of peace shone in his eyes: 'Son of man, the
Word of God liveth and abideth for ever, not in the volume of the
book, but in the heart of the man that in love obeyeth him. And
therewith I awoke weeping, but with the lesson of my dream."

A deep silence fell on the little company. Then said Wingfold,

"I trust I have the lesson too."

He rose, shook hands with them, and, without another word, went
home.



CHAPTER III.

ANOTHER SERMON.



It often seems to those in earnest about the right as if all things
conspired to prevent their progress. This of course is but an
appearance, arising in part from this, that the pilgrim must be
headed back from the side paths into which he is constantly
wandering. To Wingfold, however, it seemed that all things fell in
to further his quest, which will not be so surprising if we remember
that his was no intermittent repentant seeking, but the struggle of
his whole energy. And there are those who, in their very first
seeking of it, are nearer to the kingdom of heaven than many who
have for years believed themselves of it.

In the former there is more of the mind of Jesus, and when he calls
them they recognize him at once and go after him; while the others
examine him from head to foot, and, finding him not sufficiently
like the Jesus of their conception, turn their backs, and go to
church, or chapel, or chamber, to kneel before a vague form mingled
of tradition and fancy. But the first shall be last, and the last
first; and there are from whom, be it penny or be it pound, what
they have must be taken away because with them it lies useless.

For Wingfold, he soon found that his nature was being stirred to
depths unsuspected before. Hitherto nothing had ever roused him to
genuine activity: his history not very happy; his life not very
interesting, his work not congenial, and paying itself in no
satisfaction, his pleasures of a cold and common intellectual
sort,--he had dragged along, sustained, without the sense of its
sustentation, by the germ within him of a slowly developing honesty.
But now that Conscience had got up into the guard's seat, and Will
had taken the reins, he found all his intellectual faculties in full
play, keeping well together, heads up and traces tight, while the
outrider Imagination, with his spotted dog Fancy, was always far
ahead, but never beyond the sound of the guard's horn; and ever as
they went, object after object hitherto beyond the radius of his
interest, rose on the horizon of question, and began to glimmer in
the dawn of human relation.

His first sermon is enough to show that he had begun to have
thoughts of his own--a very different thing from the entertaining of
the thoughts of others, however well we may feed and lodge
them--thoughts which came to him not as things which sought an
entrance, but as things that sought an exit--cried for forms of
embodiment that they might pass out of the infinite, and by
incarnation become communicable.

The news of that strange first sermon had of course spread through
the town, and the people came to church the next Sunday in crowds--
twice as many as the usual assembly--some who went seldom, some who
went nowhere, some who belonged to other congregations and
communities--mostly bent on witnessing whatever eccentricity the
very peculiar young man might be guilty of next, but having a few
among them who were sympathetically interested in seeing how far his
call, if call it was, would lead him.

His second sermon was to the same purport as the first. Preposing no
text, he spoke to the following effect, and indeed the following are
of the very words he uttered:

"The church wherein you now listen, my hearers, the pulpit wherein I
now speak, stand here from of old in the name of Christianity. What
is Christianity? I know but one definition, the analysis of which,
if the thing in question be a truth, must be the joyous labour of
every devout heart to all eternity. For Christianity does not mean
what you think or what I think concerning Christ, but what IS OF
Christ. My Christianity, if ever I come to have any, will be what of
Christ is in me; your Christianity now is what of Christ is in you.
Last Sunday I showed you our Lord's very words--that he, and no
other, was his disciple who did what he told him,--and said therefore
that I dared not call myself a disciple. I say the same thing in
saying now that I dare not call myself a Christian, lest I should
offend him with my 'Lord, Lord!' Still it is, and I cannot now help
it, in the name of Christianity that I here stand. I have, alas,
with blameful and appalling thoughtlessness I subscribed my name, as
a believer, to the Articles of the Church of England, with no better
reason than that I was unaware of any dissent therefrom, and have
been ordained one of her ministers. The relations into which this
has brought me I do not feel justified in severing at once, lest I
should therein seem to deny that which its own illumination may yet
show me to be true, and I desire therefore a little respite and room
for thought and resolve. But meantime it remains my business, as an
honest man in the employment of the church, to do my best towards
the setting forth of'the claims of him upon whom that church is
founded, and in whose name she exists. As one standing on the
outskirts of a listening Galilean crowd, a word comes now and then
to my hungry ears and hungrier heart: I turn and tell it again to
you--not that ye have not heard it also, but that I may stir you up
to ask yourselves: 'Do I then obey this word? Have I ever, have I
once sought to obey it? Am I a pupil of Jesus? Am I a Christian?'
Hear then of his words. For me, they fill my heart with doubt and
dismay.

"The Lord says: Love your enemies. Sayest thou, It is impossible?
Then dost thou mock the word of him who said, I am the Truth, and
has no part in him. Sayest thou, Alas, I cannot? Thou sayest true, I
doubt not. But hast thou tried whether he who made will not increase
the strength put forth to obey him?

"The Lord says: Be ye perfect. Dost thou then aim after perfection,
or dost thou excuse thy wilful short-comings, and say, To err is
human--nor hopest that it may also be found human to grow divine?
Then ask thyself, for thou hast good cause, whether thou hast any
part in him.

"The Lord said, Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth. My
part is not now to preach against the love of money, but to ask you:
Are you laying up for yourselves treasures on earth? As to what the
command means, the honest heart and the dishonest must each settle
in his own way; but if your heart condemn you, what I have to say
is, Call not yourselves Christians, but consider whether you ought
not to become disciples indeed. No doubt you can instance this,
that, and the other man who does as you do, and of whom yet no man
dreams of questioning the Christianity: it matters not a hair; all
that goes but to say that you are pagans together. Do not mistake
me: I judge you not. I but ask you, as mouthpiece most unworthy of
that Christianity in the name of which this building stands and we
are met therein, to judge your own selves by the words of its
founder.

"The Lord said: Take no thought for your life. Take no thought for
the morrow. Explain it as you may or can--but ask yourselves--Do I
take no thought for my life? Do I take no thought for the morrow?
and answer to yourselves whether or no ye are Christians.

"The Lord says: Judge not. Didst thou judge thy neighbour yesterday?
Wilt thou judge him again to-morrow? Art thon judging him now in the
very heart that within thy bosom sits hearing the words Judge not?
Or wilt thou ask yet again--Who is my neighbour? How then canst thou
look to be of those that shall enter through the gates into the
city? I tell thee not, for I profess not yet to know anything, but
doth not thy own profession of Christianity counsel thee to fall
upon thy face, and cry to him whom thou mockest, 'I am a sinful man,
O Lord'?

"The Lord said: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do
to you, do ye even so to them. Ye that buy and sell, do you obey
this law? Examine yourselves and see. Ye would that men should deal
fairly by you; do you deal fairly by them as ye would count fairness
in them to you?--If conscience makes you hang the head inwardly,
however you sit with it erect in the pew, dare you add to your crime
against the law and the prophets the insult to Christ of calling
yourselves his disciples?

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the
kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is
in heaven. He will none but those who with him do the will of the
Father."



CHAPTER IV.

NURSING.



I have of course given but the spine and ribs, as it were, of the
sermon. There is no place for more. It is enough however to show
that he came to the point--and what can be better in preaching?
Certainly he was making the best of the blunder that had led him up
into that pulpit! And on the other hand, whatever might be the
various judgments and opinions of his hearers in respect of the
sermon--a thing about which the less any preacher allows himself to
think the better--many of them did actually feel that he had been
preaching to them, which is saying much. Even Mrs. Ramshorn was more
silent than usual as they went home, and although--not having
acquainted herself, amongst others, with the sermons of Latimer--she
was profoundly convinced that such preaching was altogether contrary
to the tradition, usage, and tone of the English Church, of which
her departed dean remained to her the unimpeachable embodiment and
type, the sole remark she made was, that Mr. Wingfold took quite too
much pains to prove himself a pagan. Mr. Bascombe was in the same
mind as before.

"I like the fellow," he said. "He says what he means, fair and full,
and no shilly-shallying. It's all great rubbish, of course!"

And the widow of the dean of blessed memory had not a word to say in
defence of the sermon, but, for her, let it go as the great rubbish
he called it. Indeed, not knowing the real mind of her nephew, she
was nothing less than gratified to hear from him an opinion so
comfortably hostile to that of this most uncomfortable of curates,
whom you never could tell where to have, and whom never since he had
confessed to wrong in the reading of his uncle's sermons, and thus
unwittingly cast a reproach upon the memory of him who had departed
from the harassed company of deans militant to the blessed company
of deans triumphant, had she invited to share at her table of the
good things left behind.

"Why don't you ask him home to dinner, aunt?" said Bascombe, after a
pause unbroken by Mrs. Ramshorn.

"Why should I, George?" returned his aunt. "Has he not been abusing
us all at a most ignorant and furious rate?"

"Oh! I didn't know," said the nephew, and held his peace. Nor did
the aunt perceive the sarcasm for the sake of pointing which he was
silent. But it was not lost, and George was paid in full by the
flicker of a faint smile across Helen's face.

As for Helen, the sermon had indeed laid a sort of feebly electrical
hold upon her, the mere nervous influence of honesty and
earnestness. But she could not accuse herself of having ever made a
prominent profession of Christianity, confirmation and communion
notwithstanding; and besides, had she not now all but abjured the
whole thing in her heart? so that, if every word of what he said was
true, not a word of it could be applied to her! And what time had
she to think about such far-away things as had happened eighteen
centuries ago, when there was her one darling pining away with a
black weight on his heart!

For, although Leopold was gradually recovering, a supreme dejection,
for which his weakness was insufficient to account, prostrated his
spirit, and at length drove Mr. Faber to ask Helen whether she knew
of any disappointment or other source of mental suffering that could
explain it. She told him of the habit he had formed, and asked
whether his being deprived of the narcotic might not be the cause.
He accepted the suggestion, and set himself, not without some
success, to repair the injury the abuse had occasioned. Still,
although his physical condition plainly improved, the dejection
continued, and Mr. Faber was thrown back upon his former conjecture.
Learning nothing, however, and yet finding that, as he advanced
towards health, his dejection plainly deepened, he began at length
to fear softening of the brain, but could discover no other symptom
of such disease.

The earnestness of the doctor's quest after a cause for what anyone
might observe, added greatly to Helen's uneasiness; and besides, the
fact itself began to undermine the hope of his innocence which had
again sprung up and almost grown to assurance in the absence of any
fresh contradiction from without. Also, as his health returned, his
sleep became more troubled; he dreamed more, and showed by his
increased agitation in his dreams that they were more painful. In
this respect his condition was at the worst always between two and
three o'clock in the morning; and having perceived this fact, Helen
would never allow anyone except herself to sit up with him the first
part of the night.

Increased anxiety and continued watching soon told upon her health
yet more severely, and she lost appetite and complexion. Still she
slept well during the latter part of the morning, and it was in vain
that aunt and doctor and nurse all expostulated with her upon the
excess of her ministration: nothing should make her yield the post
until her brother was himself again. Nor was she without her reward,
and that a sufficing one--in the love and gratitude with which
Leopold clung to her.

During the day also she spent every moment, except such as she
passed in the open air, and at table with her aunt, by his bedside,
reading and talking to him; but as yet not a single allusion had
been made to the frightful secret.

At length he was so much better that there was no longer need for
anyone to sit up with him; but then Helen had her bed put in the
dressing-room, that at one o'clock she might be by his side, to sit
there until three should be well over and gone.

Thus she gave up her whole life to him, and doubtless thereby gained
much fresh interest in it for herself. But the weight of the secret,
and the dread of the law, were too much for her, and were gradually
undermining that strength of dissimulation in which she had trusted,
and which, in respect of cheerfulness, she had to exercise towards
her brother as well as her aunt. She struggled hard, for if those
weak despairing eyes of his were to encounter weakness and despair
in hers, madness itself would be at the door for both. She had come
nearly to the point of discovering that the soul is not capable of
generating its own requirements, that it needs to be supplied from a
well whose springs lie deeper than its own soil, in the infinite
All, namely, upon which that soil rests. Happy they who have found
that those springs have an outlet in their hearts--on the hill of
prayer.

It was very difficult to lay her hands on reading that suited him.
Gifted with a glowing yet delicate eastern imagination, pampered and
all but ruined, he was impatient of narratives of common life, whose
current bore him to a reservoir and no sea; while, on the other
hand, some tales that seemed to Helen poverty-stricken flats of
nonsense, or jumbles of false invention, would in her brother wake
an interest she could not understand, appearing to afford him
outlooks into regions to her unknown. But from the moral element in
any story he shrunk visibly. She tried the German tales collected by
the brothers Grimm, so popular with children of all ages; but on the
very first attempt she blundered into an awful one of murder and
vengeance, in which, if the drawing was untrue, the colour was
strong, and had to blunder clumsily out of it again, with a hot face
and a cold heart. At length she betook herself to the Thousand and
One Nights, which she had never read, and found very dull, but which
with Leopold served for what book could do.

In the rest of the house things went on much the same. Old friends
and their daughters called on Mrs. Ramshorn, and inquired after the
invalid, and George Bascombe came almost every Saturday, and stayed
till Monday. But the moment the tide of her trouble began again to
rise, Helen found herself less desirous of meeting one from whom she
could hope neither help nor cheer. It might be that future
generations of the death-doomed might pass their poor life a little
more comfortably that she had not been a bad woman, and she might be
privileged to pass away from the world, as George taught her,
without earning the curses of those that came after her; but there
was her precious brother lying before her with a horrible worm
gnawing at his heart, and what to her were a thousand generations
unborn! Rather with Macbeth she might well "wish the estate o' the
world were now undone"--most of all when, in the silent watches of
the night, as she sat by the bedside of her beloved and he slept,
his voice would come murmuring out of a dream, sounding so far away
that it seemed as if his spirit only and not his lips had spoken the
words, "Oh Helen, darling, give me my knife. Why will you not let me
die?"



CHAPTER V.

GLASTON AND THE CURATE.



Outside, the sun rose and set, never a crimson thread the less in
the garment of his glory that the spirit of one of the children of
the earth was stained with blood-guiltiness; the moon came up and
knew nothing of the matter; the stars minded their own business; and
the people of Glaston were talking about their curate's sermons.
Alas, it was about his sermons, and not the subject of them, that
men talked, their interest mainly roused by their PECULIARITY, and
what some called the oddity of the preacher.

What had come to him? He was not in the least like that for months
after his appointment, and the change came all at once! Yes--it
began with those extravagant notions about honesty in writing his
own sermons! It might have been a sunstroke, but it took him far too
early in the year for that! Softening of the brain it might be, poor
fellow! Was not excessive vanity sometimes a symptom?--Poor fellow!

So said some. But others said he was a clever fellow, and
long-headed enough to know that that sort of thing attracted
attention, and might open the way to a benefice, or at least an
engagement in London, where eloquence was of more account than in a
dead-and-alive country place like Glaston, from which the tide of
grace had ebbed, leaving that great ship of the church, the Abbey,
high and dry on the shore.

Others again judged him a fanatic--a dangerous man. Such did not all
venture to assert that he had erred from the way, but what man was
more dangerous than he who went too far? Possibly these forgot that
the narrow way can hardly be one to sit down in comfortably, or
indeed to be entered at all save by him who tries the gate with the
intent of going all the way--even should it lead up to the
perfection of the Father in heaven. "But," they would in effect have
argued, "is not a fanatic dangerous? and is not an enthusiast always
in peril of becoming a fanatic?--Be his enthusiasm for what it
may--for Jesus Christ, for God himself, such a man is dangerous--
most dangerous! There are so many things, comfortably settled like
Presumption's tubs upon their own bottoms, which such men would, if
they could, at once upset and empty!"

Others suspected a Romanizing drift in the whole affair. "Wait until
he gathers influence," they said, "and a handful of followers, and
then you'll see! They'll be all back to Rome together in a month!"

As the wind took by the tail St. Peter's cock on the church spire
and whirled it about, so did the wind of words in Glaston rudely
seize and flack hither and thither the spiritual reputation of
Thomas Wingfold, curate. And all the time, the young man was
wrestling, his life in his hand, with his own unbelief; while upon
his horizon ever and anon rose the glimmer of a great aurora, or the
glimpse of a boundless main--if only he could have been sure they
were no mirage of his own parched heart and hungry eye--that they
were thoughts in the mind of the Eternal, and THRERFORE had appeared
in his, even as the Word was said to have become flesh and dwelt
with men! The next moment he would be gasping in that malarious
exhalation from the marshes of his neglected heart--the
counter-fear, namely, that the word under whose potent radiance the
world seemed on the verge of budding forth and blossoming as the
rose, was TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.

"Yes, much too good, if there be no living, self-willing Good," said
Polwarth one evening, in answer to the phrase just dropped from his
lips. "But if there be such a God as alone could be God, can
anything be too good to be true?--too good for such a God as
contented Jesus Christ?"

At one moment he was ready to believe everything, even to that
strangest, yet to me right credible miracle of the fish and the
piece of money, and the next to doubt whether man had ever dared
utter the words, "I and the Father are one." Tossed he was and
tormented in spirit, calling even aloud sometimes to know if there
was a God anywhere hearing his prayer, sure only of this, that
whatever else any being might be, if he heard not prayer, he could
not be the God for whom his soul cried and fainted. Sometimes there
came to him, it is true, what he would gladly have taken for an
answer, but it was nothing more than the sudden descent of a kind of
calmness on his spirit, which, for aught he could tell, might be but
the calm of exhaustion. His knees were sore with kneeling, his face
white with thinking, his eyes dim with trouble; for when once a man
has set out to find God, he must find him or die. This was the
inside reality whose outcome set the public of Glaston babbling. It
was from this that George Bascombe magisterially pronounced him a
hypochondriac, worrying his brain about things that had no
existence--as George himself could with confidence testify, not once
having seen the sight of them, heard the sound of them, or imagined
in his heart that they ought to be, or even that they might possibly
be. He pronounced indeed their existence inconsistent with his own.
The thought had never rippled the grey mass of his self-satisfied
brain that perhaps there was more of himself than what he counted he
himself yet knew, and that possibly these matters had a consistent
relation with parts unknown. Poor, poverty-stricken Wingfold!
--actually craving for things beneath Bascombe's notice! actually
crying for something higher and brighter than the moon! How
independent was George compared with Thomas!--content to live what
he called his life, be a benefactor to men, chiefly in ridding their
fancies of the goblins of aspiration, then die his death, and have
done with the business; while poor misguided, weak-brained,
hypochondriacal Thomas could be contented with nothing less than the
fulfilment of the promise of a certain man who perhaps never
existed: "The Father and I will come to him and make our abode with
him."

Yet Thomas too had his weakness for the testimony of the senses. If
he did not, like George, refuse to believe without it, he yet could
not help desiring signs and wonders that he might believe. Of this
the following poem was a result, and I give it the more willingly
because it will show how the intellectual nature of the man had
advanced, borne on the waves that burst from the fountains of the
great deep below it.

    O Lord, if on the wind, at cool of day,
        I heard one whispered word of mighty grace;
    If through the darkness, as in bed I lay,
        But once had come a hand upon my face;

    If but one sign that might not be mistook,
        Had ever been, since first thy face I sought,
    I should not now be doubting o'er a book,
        But serving thee with burning heart and thought.

    So dreams that heart. But to my heart I say,
        Turning my face to front the dark and wind:
    Such signs had only barred anew His way
        Into thee, longing heart, thee, wildered mind.

    They asked the very Way, where lies the way;
        The very Son, where is the Father's face;
    How he could show himself, if not in clay,
        Who was the lord of spirit, form, and space.

    My being, Lord, will nevermore be whole
        Until thou come behind mine ears and eyes,
    Enter and fill the temple of my soul
        With perfect contact--such a sweet surprise--

    Such presence as, before it met the view,
        The prophet-fancy could not once foresee,
    Though every corner of the temple knew
        By very emptiness its need of thee.

    When I keep ALL thy words, no favoured some--
        Heedless of worldly winds or judgment's tide,
    Then, Jesus, thou wilt with thy Father come--
        O ended prayers!--and in my soul abide.

    Ah long delay!--ah cunning, creeping sin!
        I shall but fail and cease at length to try:
    O Jesus, though thou wilt not yet come in,
        Knock at my window as thou passest by.



CHAPTER VI.

THE LINEN-DRAPER.



But there was yet another class amongst those who on that second day
heard the curate testify what honestly he might, and no more,
concerning Jesus of Nazareth. So far as he learned, however, that
class consisted of one individual.

On the following Tuesday morning he went into the shop of the chief
linen-draper of Glaston, for he was going to a funeral, and wanted a
new pair of gloves that he might decline those which would be
offered him. A young woman waited on him, but Mr. Drew, seeing him
from the other end of the shop, came and took her place. When he was
fitted, had paid for his purchase, and was turning to take his
leave, the draper, with what appeared a resolution suddenly forced
from hesitation, leaned over the counter and said:

"Would you mind walking up stairs for a few minutes, sir? I ask it
as a great favour. I want very much to speak to you."

"I shall be most happy," answered Wingfold--conventionally, it must
be allowed, for in reality he anticipated expostulation, and having
in his public ministrations to do his duty against his own grain, he
had no fancy for encountering other people's grain as well in
private. Mr. Drew opened certain straits in the counter, and the
curate followed him through them, then through a door, up a stair,
and into a comfortable dining-room, which smelt strongly of tobacco.
There Mr. Drew placed for him a chair, and seated himself in front
of him.

The linen-draper was a middle-aged, middle-sized, stoutish man, with
plump rosy cheeks, keen black eyes, and features of the not uncommon
pug-type, ennobled and harmonized by a genuine expression of kindly
good-humour, and an excellent forehead. His dark hair was a little
streaked with gray. His manner, which, in the shop, had been of the
shop, that is, more deferential and would-be pleasing than Wingfold
liked, settled as he took his seat into one more resembling that of
a country gentleman. It was courteous and friendly, but clouded with
a little anxiety.

An uncomfortable pause following, Wingfold stumbled in with the
question, "I hope Mrs. Drew is well," without reflecting whether he
had really ever heard of a Mrs. Drew.

The draper's face flushed.

"It is twenty years since I lost her, sir," he returned. In his tone
and manner there was something peculiar.

"I beg your pardon," said Wingfold, with self-accusing sincerity.

"I will be open with you sir," continued his host: "she left
me--with another--nearly twenty years ago."

"I am ashamed of my inadvertence," rejoined Wingfold. "I have been
such a short time here, and--"

"Do not mention it, sir. How could you help it? Besides, it was not
here the thing took place, but a hundred miles away. I hope I should
before long have referred to the fact myself. But now I desire, if
you will allow me, to speak of something different."

"I am at your service," answered Wingfold.

"Thank you, sir.--I was in your church last Sunday," resumed the
draper after a pause. "I am not one of your regular hearers, sir;
but your sermon that day set me thinking, and instead of thinking
less when Monday came, I have been thinking more and more ever
since; and when I saw you in the shop, I could not resist the sudden
desire to speak to you. If you have time, sir, I hope you will allow
me to come to the point my own way?"

Wingfold assured him that his time was at his own disposal, and
could not be better occupied. Mr. Drew thanked him and went on.

"Your sermon, I must confess, sir, made me uncomfortable--no fault
of yours, sir--all my own--though how much the fault is, I hardly
know: use and custom are hard upon a man, sir, and you would have a
man go by other laws than those of the world he lives in. The earth
is the Lord's and the fulness thereof--you will doubtless say. That
is over the Royal Exchange in London, I think; but it is not the
laws of the Lord that are specially followed inside for all that.
However, it is not with other people we have to do, but with
ourselves--as you will say. Well then it is for myself I am
troubled now. Mr. Wingfold, sir, I am not altogether at ease in my
own mind as to the way I have made my money--what little money I
have--no great sum, but enough to retire upon when I please. I would
not have you think me worse than I am, but I am sincerely desirous
of knowing what you would have me do."

"My dear sir," returned Wingfold, "I am the very last to look to for
enlightenment. I am as ignorant of business as any child. I am not
aware that I ever bought anything except books and clothes, or ever
sold anything except a knife to a schoolfellow. I had bought it the
day before for half-a-crown, but there was a spot of rust on one of
the blades, and therefore I parted with it for twopence. The only
thing I can say is: if you have been in the way of doing anything
you are no longer satisfied with, don't do it any more."

"But just there comes my need of help. You must do something with
your business, and DON'T DO IT, don't tell me what to do. Mind I do
not confess to having done anything the trade would count
inadmissible, or which is not done in the largest establishments.
What I now make a question of I learned in one of the most
respectable of London houses."

"You imply that a man in your line who would not do certain things
the doing of which has contributed to the making of your fortune,
would by the ordinary dealer be regarded as Quixotic?"

"He would; but that there may be such men I am bound to allow, for
here am I wishing with all my heart that I had never done them.
Right gladly would I give up the money I have made by them to be rid
of them. I am unhappy about it. But I should never have dared to
confess it to you, sir, or, I believe, to anyone, but for the
confession you made in the pulpit some time ago. I was not there,
but I heard of it. I foolishly judged you unwise to accuse yourself
before an unsympathizing public--but here am I in consequence
accusing myself to you!"

"To no unsympathising hearer, though," said the curate.

"It made me want to go and hear you preach," pursued the draper;
"for no one could say but it was plucky--and we all like pluck,
sir," he added, with a laugh that puckered his face, showed the
whitest of teeth, and swept every sign of trouble from the
half-globe of his radiant countenance.

"Then you know sum and substance of what I can do for you, Mr. Drew:
I can sympathize with you;--not a whit more or less am I capable of.
I am the merest beginner and dabbler in doing right myself, and have
more need to ask you to teach me than to set up for teaching you."

"That's the beauty of you!--excuse me, sir," cried the draper
triumphantly. "You don't pretend to teach us anything, but you make
us so uncomfortable that we go about ever after asking ourselves
what we ought to do. Till last Sunday, I had always looked upon
myself as an honest man: let me see: it would be more correct to say
I looked on myself as a man QUITE HONEST ENOUGH. That I do not feel
so now, is your doing, sir. You said in your sermon last Sunday, and
specially to business men: 'Do you do to your neighbour as you would
have your neighbour do to you? If not, how can you suppose that the
lord of Christians will acknowledge you as a disciple of his, that
is, as a Christian?' Now I was even surer of being a Christian than
of being an honest man. You will hardly believe it, and what to
think of it myself I now hardly know, but I had satisfied myself,
more or less, that I had gone through all the necessary stages of
being born again, and it is now many years since I was received into
a Christian church--dissenting of course, I mean; for what I count
the most important difference after all between church and dissent
is that the one, right or wrong, requires for communion a personal
profession of faith, and credible proof of conversion--which I
believed I gave them, and have been for years, I shame to say it,
one of the deacons of that community. But it shall not be for long.
To return to my story, however: I was indignant at being called upon
from a church-pulpit to raise in myself the question whether or not
I was a Christian;--for had I not put my faith in the--? But I will
avoid theology, for I have paid more regard to that than has proved
good for me. Suffice it to say that I was now driven from the tests
of the theologians to try myself by the words of the Master: he must
be the best theologian after all, mustn't he, sir?--and so there and
then I tried the test of doing to your neighbour AS. But I could NOT
get it to work; I could not see how to use it, and while I was
trying how to make it apply, you were gone, and I lost all the rest
of the sermon.

"Now whether it was anything you had said coming back to me, I
cannot tell, but next day, that was yesterday, all at once, in the
shop here, as I was serving Mrs. Ramshorn, the thought came to me:
How would Jesus Christ have done if he had been a draper instead of
a carpenter? When she was gone, I went up to my room to think about
it. And there it seemed--that first I must know how he did as a
carpenter. But that we are told nothing about. I could get no light
upon that. And so my thoughts turned again to the original question.
--How would he have done had he been a draper? And, strange to say,
I seemed to know far more about that than the other, and to have
something to go upon. In fact I had a sharp and decisive answer
concerning several things of which I had dared to make a question."

"The vision of the ideal woke the ideal in yourself," said Wingfold
thoughtfully.

"I don't know that I quite understand that," returned Mr. Drew; "but
the more I thought the more dissatisfied I became. And, in a word,
it has come to this, that I must set things right, or give up
business."

"That would be no victory," remarked the curate.

"I know it, and shall not yield without a struggle, I promise you.
That same afternoon, taking the opportunity of having overheard one
of them endeavouring to persuade an old farmer's wife to her
disadvantage, I called all my people, and told them that if ever I
heard one of them do such a thing, I would turn him or her away at
once. But when I came to look at it, I saw how difficult it would be
to convict of the breach of such a vague law; and unfortunately too
I had some time ago introduced the system of a small percentage to
the sellers, making it their interest to force sales. That however
is easily rectified, and I shall see to it at once. But I do wish I
had a more definite law to follow than that of doing AS!"

"Would not more light inside do as well as clearer law outside?"
suggested Wingfold.

"How can I tell till I have had a chance of trying?" returned the
draper with a smile, which speedily vanished as he went on: "Then
again, there's about profits! How much ought I to take? Am I to do
as others do, and always be ruled by the market? Am I bound to give
my customers the advantage of any special bargain I may have made?
And then again--for I do a large wholesale business with the little
country shops--if I learn that one of my customers is going down
hill, have I, or have I not, a right to pounce upon him, and make
him pay me, to the detriment of his other creditors? There's no end
of questions, you see, sir."

"I am the worst possible man to ask," returned Wingfold again. "I
might, from very ignorance, judge that wrong which is really right,
or that right which is really wrong. But one thing I begin to see,
that before a man can do right by his neighbour, he must love him as
himself. Only I am such a poor scholar in these high things that, as
you have just said, I cannot pretend to teach anybody. That sermon
was but an appeal to men's own consciences whether they kept the
words of the Lord by whose name they called themselves. Except in
your case, Mr. Drew, I am not aware that one of the congregation has
taken it to heart."

"I am not sure of that," returned the draper. "Some talk amongst my
own people has made me fancy that, perhaps, though talk be but
froth, the froth may rise from some hot work down below. Never man
could tell from the quiet way I am talking to you, how much I have
felt these few days past."

Wingfold looked him in the face: the earnestness of the man was
plain in his eyes, and his resolve stamped on every feature. The
curate thought of Zacchaeus; thought of Matthew at the receipt of
custom; thought with some shame of certain judgments concerning
trade, and shopkeepers especially, that seemed somehow to have bred
in him like creeping things--for whence they had come he could not
tell.

Now it was clear as day that--always provided the man Christ Jesus
can be and is with his disciples always to the end of the world--a
tradesman might just as soon have Jesus behind the counter with him,
teaching him to buy and sell IN HIS NAME, that is, as he would have
done it, as an earl riding over his lands might have him with him,
teaching him how to treat his farmers and cottagers--all depending
on how the one did his trading and the other his earling. A mere
truism, is it? Yes, it is, and more is the pity; for what is a
truism, as most men count truisms? What is it but a truth that ought
to have been buried long ago in the lives of men--to send up for
ever the corn of true deeds and the wine of loving kindness,--but
instead of being buried in friendly soil, is allowed to lie about,
kicked hither and thither in the dry and empty garret of their
brains, till they are sick of the sight and sound of it, and to be
rid of the thought of it, declare it to be no living truth but only
a lifeless truism! Yet in their brain that truism must rattle until
they shift it to its rightful quarters in their heart, where it will
rattle no longer but take root and be a strength and loveliness. Is
a truth to cease to be uttered because no better form than that of
some divine truism--say of St. John Boanerges--can be found for it?
To the critic the truism is a sea-worn, foot-trodden pebble; to the
obedient scholar, a radiant topaz, which, as he polishes it with the
dust of its use, may turn into a diamond.

"Jesus buying and selling!" said Wingfold to himself. "And why not?
Did Jesus make chairs and tables, or boats perhaps, which the people
of Nazareth wanted, without any admixture of trade in the matter?
Was there no transaction? No passing of money between hands? Did
they not pay his father for them? Was his Father's way of keeping
things going in the world, too vile for the hands of him whose being
was delight in the will of that Father? No; there must be a way of
handling money that is noble as the handling of the sword in the
hands of the patriot. Neither the mean man who loves it, nor the
faithless man who despises it, knows how to handle it. The former is
one who allows his dog to become a nuisance, the latter one who
kicks him from his sight. The noble man is he who so truly does the
work given him to do that the inherent nobility of that work is
manifest. And the trader who trades nobly is nobler surely than the
high-born who, if he carried the principles of his daily life into
trade, would be as pitiful a sneak as any he that bows and scrapes
falsely behind that altar of lies, his counter."--All flat truisms I
know, but no longer such to Wingfold to whom they now for the first
time showed themselves truths.

He had taken a kindly leave of the draper, promising to call again
soon, and had reached the room-door on his way out, when he turned
suddenly and said,

"Did you think to try praying, Mr. Drew? Men, whose minds, if I may
venture to judge, seem to me, from their writings, of the very
highest order, have really and positively believed that the loftiest
activity of a man's being lay in prayer to the unknown Father of
that being, and that light in the inward parts was the certain
consequence--that, in very truth, not only did the prayer of the man
find the ear of God, but the man himself found God Himself. I have
no right to an opinion, but I have a splendid hope that I shall one
day find it true. The Lord said a man must go on praying and not
lose heart."

With the words he walked out, and the deacon thought of his many
prayers at prayer-meetings and family-worships. The words of a young
man who seemed to have only just discovered that there was such a
thing as prayer, who could not pretend to be sure about it, but
hoped splendidly, made him ashamed of them all.



CHAPTER VII.

RACHEL.



Wingfold went straight to his friend Polwarth, and asked him if he
would allow him to bring Mr. Drew some evening to tea.

"You mean the linen-draper?" asked Polwarth. "Certainly, if you wish
it."

"Some troubles are catching," said the curate. "Drew has caught my
disease."

"I am delighted to hear it. It would be hard to catch a better, and
it's one a rich man, as they say he is, seldom does catch. But I
always liked his round, good-humoured, honest face. If I remember
rightly, he had a sore trial in his wife. It is generally understood
that she ran away with some fellow or other. But that was before he
came to live in Glaston.--Would you mind looking in upon Rachel for
a few minutes, sir? She is not so well to-day, and has not been out
of her own room."

"With all my heart," answered Wingfold. "I am sorry to hear she is
suffering."

"She is always suffering more or less," said the little man. "But
she enjoys life notwithstanding, as you may clearly see. It is to
her only a mitigated good, and that, I trust, for the sake of an
unmitigated one.--Come this way, sir."

He led the curate to the room next his own. It was a humble little
garret, but dainty with whiteness. One who did not thoroughly know
her, might have said it was like her life, colourless, but bright
with innocence and peace. The walls were white; the boards of the
uncarpeted floor were as white as scrubbing could make old deal; the
curtains of windows and bed were whiteness itself; the coverlet was
white; so was the face that looked smiling over the top of it from
the one low white pillow. But although Wingfold knew that face so
well, he almost started at the sight of it now: in the patience of
its suffering it was positively lovely. All that was painful to see
was hidden; the crooked little body lay at rest in the grave of the
bed-clothes; the soul rose from it, and looked, gracious with
womanhood, in the eyes of the curate.

"I cannot give you my hand," she said smiling, as he went softly
towards her, feeling like Moses when he put off his shoes, "for I
have such a pain in my arm, I cannot well raise it."

The curate bowed reverentially, seated himself in a chair by her
bedside, and, like a true comforter, said nothing.

"Don't be sorry for me, Mr. Wingfold," said her sweet voice at
length. "The poor dwarfie, as the children call me, is not a
creature to be pitied. You don't know how happy I am as I lie here,
knowing my uncle is in the next room, and will come the moment I
call him--and that there is one nearer still," she added in a lower
voice, almost in a whisper, "whom I haven't even to call. I am his,
and he shall do with me just as he likes. I fancy sometimes, when I
have to lie still, that I am a little sheep, tied hands and feet--I
should have said all four feet, if I am a sheep"--and here she gave
a little merry laugh--"lying on an altar--the bed here--burning
away, in the flame of life, that consumes the deathful body--burning,
heart and soul and sense, up to the great Father.--Forgive me, Mr.
Wingfold, for talking about myself, but you looked so miserable!
and I knew it was your kind heart feeling for me. But I need not,
for that, have gone on at such a rate. I am ashamed of myself!"

"On the contrary, I am exceedingly obliged to you for honouring me
by talking so freely," said Wingfold. "It is a great satisfaction to
find that suffering is not necessarily unhappiness. I could be well
content to suffer also, Miss Polwarth, if with the suffering I might
have the same peace."

"Sometimes I am troubled," she answered; "but generally I am in
peace, and sometimes too happy to dare speak about it.--Would the
persons you and my uncle were talking about the other day--would
they say all my pleasant as well as my painful thoughts came from
the same cause--vibrations in my brain?"

"No doubt. They would say, I presume, that the pleasant thoughts
come from regular, and the unpleasant from irregular motions of its
particles. They must give the same origin to both. Would you be
willing to acknowledge that only your pleasant thoughts had a higher
origin, and that your painful ones came from physical sources?"

Because of a headache and depression of spirits, Wingfold had been
turning over similar questions in his own mind the night before.

"I see," said the dwarfie--"I see. No. There are sad thoughts
sometimes which in their season I would not lose, for I would have
their influences with me always. In their season they are better
than a host of happy ones, and there is joy at the root of all. But
if they did come from physical causes, would it follow that they did
not come from God? Is he not the God of the dying as well as the God
of the living?"

"If there be a God, Miss Polwarth," returned Wingfold eagerly, "then
is he God everywhere, and not a maggot can die any more than a
Shakespeare be born without him. He is either enough, that is, all
in all, or he is not at all."

"That is what I think--because it is best:--I can give no better
reason."

"If there be a God, there can be no better reason," said Wingfold.

This IF of Wingfold's was, I need hardly now say, an IF of bare
honesty, and came of no desire to shake an unthinking confidence.
Neither, had it been of the other sort, could it have shaken
Rachel's, for her confidence was full of thinking. As little could
it shock her, for she hardly missed a sentence that passed between
her uncle and his new friend. She made no reply, never imagining it
her business to combat the doubts of a man whom she knew to be eager
after the truth, and being guiltless of any tendency, because she
believed, to condemn doubt as wicked.

A short silence followed.

"How delightful it must be to feel well and strong!" said Rachel at
length. "I can't help often thinking of Miss Lingard. It's always
Miss Lingard comes up to me when I think of such things. Oh! ain't
she beautiful and strong, Mr. Wingfold?--and sits on her horse as
straight as a rush! It does one good to see her. Just fancy me on a
great tall horse! What a bag of potatoes I should look!"

She burst into a merry laugh, and then came a few tears, which were
not all of the merriment of which she let them pass as the
consequence, remarking, as she wiped them away,

"But no one can tell, Mr. Wingfold,--and I'm sure Miss Lingard would
be astonished to hear--what pleasure I have while lying unable to
move. I suppose I benefit by what people call the law of
compensation! How I hate the word! As if THAT was the way the Father
of Jesus Christ did, and not his very best to get his children,
elder brothers and prodigal sons, home to his heart! You heard what
my uncle said about dreams the other day?" she resumed after a
little pause.

"Yes. I thought it very sensible," replied the curate.

"It all depends on the sort, don't it?" said Rachel. "Some of mine I
would not give for a library. They make me grow, telling me things I
should never learn otherwise. I don't mean any rubbish about future
events, and such like. Of all useless things a knowledge of the
future seems to me the most useless, for what are you to do with a
thing before it exists? Such a knowledge could only bewilder you as
to the right way to take--would make you see double instead of
single. That's not the sort I mean at all.--You won't laugh at me,
Mr. Wingfold?"

"I can scarcely imagine anything less likely."

"Then I don't mind opening my toy-box to you.--In my dreams, for
instance, I am sometimes visited by such a sense of freedom as fills
me with a pure bliss unknown to my waking thoughts except as a rosy
cloud on the horizon. As if they were some heavenly corporation, my
dreams present me, not with the freedom of some poor little city
like London, but with the freedom of all space."

The curate sat and listened with wonder--but with no sense of
unfitness; such speech and such thought suited well with the face
that looked up from the low pillow with its lovely eyes--for lovely
they were, with a light that had both flash and force.

"I don't believe," she went on, "that even Miss Lingard has more of
the blessed sense of freedom and strength and motion when she is on
horseback than I have when I am asleep. The very winds of my dreams
will make me so unspeakabably happy that I wake weeping. Do not tell
me it is gone then, for I continue so happy that I can hardly get to
sleep again to hunt for more joy. Don't say it is an unreality--for
where does freedom lie? In the body or in the mind? What does it
matter whether my body be lying still or moving from one spot of
space to another? What is the good of motion but to produce the
feeling of freedom? The feeling is everything, and if I have it,
that is all that I want. Bodily motion would indeed disturb it for
me--lay fetters on my spirit.--Sometimes, again, I dream of a new
flower--one never before beheld by mortal eye--with some strange,
wonderful quality in it, perhaps, that makes it a treasure, like
that flower of Milton's invention--haemony--in Comus, you know. But
one curious thing is that that strange quality will never be
recalled in waking hours; so that what it was I can never tell--as
if it belonged to other regions than the life of this world: I
retain only the vaguest memory of its power, and marvel, and
preciousness.--Sometimes it is a little poem or a song I dream of,
or some strange musical instrument, perhaps like one of those I have
seen angels with in a photograph from an old picture. And somehow
with the instrument always comes the knowledge of how to play upon
it. So you see, sir, as it has pleased God to send me into the world
as crooked as a crab, and nearly as lame as a seal, it has pleased
him also to give me the health and riches of the night to strengthen
me for the pains and poverties of the day.--You rejoice in a
beautiful thought when it comes to you, Mr. Wingfold--do you not?"

"When it comes to me," answered Wingfold significantly--almost
petulantly. Could it be that he envied the dwarf-girl?

"Then is the thought any worse because it comes in a shape?--or is
the feeling less of a feeling that it is born in a dream?"

"I need no convincing, I admit all you say," returned Wingfold.

"Why are you so silent, then? You make me think you are objecting
inside to everything I am saying," rejoined Rachel with a smile.

"Partly because I fear you are exciting yourself too much and will
suffer in consequence," answered the curate, who had noted the rosy
flush on her face.

The same moment her uncle re-entered the room.

"I have been trying to convince Mr. Wingfold that there MAY be some
good in dreaming, uncle," she said.

"Successfully?" asked Polwarth.

"Unnecessarily," interjected Wingfold. "I required for conviction
only the facts. Why should I suppose that, if there be a God, he is
driven out of us by sleep?"

"It is an awful thing," said Polwarth, "to think--that this feeble
individuality of ours, the offspring of God's individuality, should
have some power, and even more will than power, to close its door
against him, and keep house without him!"

"But what sort of a house?" murmured Wingfold.

"Yes, uncle," said Rachel; "but think how he keeps about us,
haunting the doors and windows like the very wind, watching to get
in! And sometimes he makes of himself a tempest, that both doors and
windows fly open, and he enters in fear and dismay."

The prophetic in the uncle was the poetic in the niece.

"For you and me, uncle," she went on, "he made the doors and windows
so rickety that they COULD not keep him out."

"Ye are the temples of the Holy Ghost," said the curate, almost
unconsciously.

"Some of us a little ruinous!" rejoined the girl.

So full was her soul of a lively devotion that she took the
liberties of a child of the house with sacred things.

"But, Mr. Wingfold," she continued. "I must tell you one more
curious thing about my dreams: I NEVER dream of being crooked and
dwarfish. I don't dream that I am straight either; I suppose I feel
all right, and therefore never think about it. That makes me fancy
my soul must be straight.--Don't you think so, sir?"

"Indeed I do," said Wingfold warmly.

"I'm afraid I shall be telling you some of my dreams some day."

"We are rather given to that weakness," said Polwarth,--"so much so
as to make me fear for our brains sometimes. But a crooked rose-tree
may yet bear a good rose."

"Ah! you are thinking of my poor father, uncle, I know," said
Rachel. "His was a straight stem and a fine rose, only overblown,
perhaps.--I don't think I need be much afraid of that, for if I were
to go out of my mind, I should not have strength to live--unless
indeed I knew God through all the madness. I think my father did in
a way."

"It was quite plain he did," answered her uncle, "and that in no
feeble way either.--Some day I must tell you,"--here he turned to
Wingfold--"about that brother of mine, Rachel's father. I should
even like to show you a manuscript he left behind him--surely one of
the strangest ever written! It would be well worth printing if that
would ensure its falling into the hands of those who could read
through the madness.--But we have talked quite long enough for your
head, child; I will take Mr. Wingfold into the next room."



CHAPTER VIII.

THE BUTTERFLY.



As Wingfold walked home that afternoon, he thought much of what he
had heard and seen. "If there be a God," he said to himself, "then
all is well, for certainly he would not give being to such a woman,
and then throw her aside as a failure, and forget her. It is strange
to see, though, how he permits his work to be thwarted. To be the
perfect God notwithstanding, he must be able to turn the very
thwarting to higher furtherance. Don't we see something of the sort
in life--the vigorous nursed by the arduous? Is it presumptuous to
imagine God saying to Rachel: 'Trust me, and bear, and I will do
better for thee than thou canst think?' Certainly the one who most
needs the comfort of such a faith, in this case HAS it. I wish I
could be as sure of him as Rachel Polwarth!--But then," he added,
smiling to himself, "she has had her crooked spine to help her! It
seems as if nothing less than the spiritual beholding of the Eternal
will produce at least absolute belief. And till then what better or
indeed other proof can the less receive of the presence of the
greater than the expansion of its own being under the influences of
that greater? But my plague now is that the ideas of religion are so
grand, and the things all around it in life so common-place, that
they give the lie to each other from morning to night--in my mind, I
mean. Which is the true? a loving, caring father, or the grinding of
cruel poverty and the naked exposure to heedless chance? How is it
that, while the former seems the only right, reasonable, and
all-sufficing thing, it should yet come more naturally to believe in
the latter? And yet, when I think of it, I never did come closer to
believing in the latter than is indicated by terror of its possible
truth--so many things looked like it.--Then, what has nature in
common with the Bible and its metaphysics?--There I am wrong--she
has a thousand things. The very wind on my face seems to rouse me to
fresh effort after a pure healthy life! Then there is the sunrise!
There is the snowdrop in the snow! There is the butterfly! There is
the rain of summer, and the clearing of the sky after a storm! There
is the hen gathering her chickens under her wing!--I begin to doubt
whether there be the common-place anywhere except in our own
mistrusting nature, that will cast no care upon the Unseen. It is
with me, in regard to my better life, as it was with the disciples
in regard to their bodily life, when they were for the time rendered
incapable of understanding the words of our Lord by having forgotten
to take bread in the boat: they were so afraid of being hungry that
they could think of nothing but bread."

Such were some of the curate's thoughts as he walked home, and they
drove him to prayer, in which came more thoughts. When he reached
his room he sat down at his table, and wove and knotted and pieced
together the following verses, venturing that easy yet perilous
thing, a sonnet. I give here its final shape, not its first or
second:

Methought I floated sightless, nor did know That I had ears until I
heard the cry As of a mighty man in agony: "How long, Lord, shall I
lie thus foul and slow? The arrows of thy lightning through me go,
And sting and torture me--yet here I lie A shapeless mass that
scarce can mould a sigh." The darkness thinned; I saw a thing below,
Like sheeted corpse, a knot at head and feet. Slow clomb the sun the
mountains of the dead, And looked upon the world: the silence broke!
A blinding struggle! then the thunderous beat Of great exulting
pinions stroke on stroke! And from that world a mighty angel fled.

But upon the heels of the sonnet came, as was natural, according to
the law of reaction, a fresh and more appalling, because more
self-assertive and verisimilous invasion of the commonplace. What a
foolish, unreal thing he had written! He caught up his hat and stick
and hurried out, thinking to combat the demon better in the open
air.



CHAPTER IX.

THE COMMON-PLACE.



It was evening, and the air was still warm. Pine Street was almost
empty, save of the red sun, which blinded him so that wherever he
looked he could only see great sunblots. All but a few of the shops
were closed, but amongst the few he was surprised to find that of
his friend the linendraper, who had always been a strong advocate of
early closing. The shutters were up, however, though the door stood
wide open. He peeped in. To his sun-blinded eyes the shop looked
very dark, but he thought he saw Mr. Drew talking to some one, and
entered. He was right; it was the draper himself, and a poor woman
with a child on one arm, and a print dress she had just bought on
the other. The curate leaned against the counter, and waited until
business should be over to address his friend.

"Is Mr. Drew an embryonic angel?" he half felt, half thought within
himself. "Is this shop the chrysalis of a great psyche? Will the
draper, with his round good-humoured face and puckering smile, ever
spread thunderous wings and cleave the air up to the throne of God?"

"I cannot tell you how it goes against me to take that woman's
money," said the voice of the draper.

The curate woke up in the presence of the unwinged, and saw that the
woman had left the shop.

"I did let her have the print at cost-price," Mr. Drew went on,
laughing merrily. "That was all I could venture on."

"Where was the danger?"

"Ah, you don't know so well as I do the good of having some
difficulty in getting what you need! To ease the struggles of the
poor, unless it be in sickness or absolute want, I have repeatedly
proved to be a cruel kindness."

"Then you don't sell to the poor women at cost-price always?"

"No--only to the soldiers' wives. They have a very hard life of it,
poor things!"

"That is your custom, then?"

"For the last ten years, but I don't let them know it."

"Is it for the soldiers' wives you keep your shop open so late? I
thought you were the great supporter of early closing in Glaston,"
said the curate.

"I will tell you how it happened to-night," answered the draper, and
as he spoke he turned round, not his long left ear upon the pivot of
his skull, but his whole person upon the pivot of the counter--to
misuse the word pivot with Wordsworth--and bolted the shop-door.

"After the young men had put up the shutters and were gone," he
said, returning to the counter, "leaving me as usual to bolt the
door, I fell a-thinking. Outside, the street was full of sunlight,
but only enough came in to show how gloomy the place was without
more of it, and the back of the shop was nearly dark. It was very
still too--so still that the silence seemed to have taken the shape
of gloom. Pardon me for talking in this unbusiness-like way: a man
can't be a draper always; he must be foolish sometimes. Thirty years
ago I used to read Tennyson. I believe I was amongst the earliest of
his admirers."

"Foolish!" echoed Wingfold, thoughtfully.

"You see," the draper went on, "there IS something solemn in the
quiet after business is over. Sometimes it's more so, sometimes
less; but this night it came upon me that the shop felt like a
chapel--had the very air of one somehow, and so I fell a thinking,
and forgot to shut the door. How it began I don't know, but my past
life came up to me, and I remembered how, when I was a young man, I
used to despise my father's business, to which he was bringing me
up, and feed my fancy with things belonging to higher walks in life.
Then I saw that must have been partly how I fell into the mistake of
marrying Mrs. Drew. She was the daughter of a doctor in our town, a
widower. He was in poor health, and unable to make much of his
practice, so that when he died she was left destitute, and for that
reason alone, I do believe, accepted me. What followed you know: she
went away with a man who used to travel for a large Manchester
house. I have never heard of her since.

"After she left me, a sort of something which I think I may call the
disease of self-preservation, laid hold upon me. I must acknowledge
that the loss of my wife was not altogether a misery. She despised
my trade, which drove me to defend it--and the more bitterly that I
also despised it. There was therefore a good deal of strife between
us. I did not make allowance enough for the descent she had made
from a professional father to a trade-husband. I forgot that, if she
was to blame for marrying me for bread, I was to blame for marrying
her to enlarge myself with her superiority. After she was gone, I
was aware of a not unwelcome calm in the house, and in the emptiness
of that calm came the demon of selfishness sevenfold into my heart,
and took up his abode with me. From that time I busied myself only
about two things--the safety of my soul, and a good provision for my
body. I joined the church I had occasion to mention to you before,
sir, grew a little harder in my business dealings, and began to lay
by money. And so, ever since, have I been going on till I heard your
sermon the other day, which I hope has waked me up to something
better.--All this long story is but to let you understand how I was
feeling when that woman came into the shop. I told you how, in the
dusk and the silence, it was as if I were in the chapel. I found
myself half-listening for the organ. Then the verse of a hymn came
into my mind--I can't tell where or when I had met with it, but it
had stuck to me:

    Let me stand ever at the door,
        And keep it from the entering sin,
    That so thy temple, walls and floor,
        Be pure for thee to enter in.

"Now that, you see, is said of the temple of the heart; but somehow
things went rather cross-cut that evening--they got muddled in my
head. It seemed as if I was the door-keeper of my shop, and at the
same time as if my shop, spreading out and dimly vanishing in the
sacred gloom, was the temple of the Holy Ghost, out of which I had
to keep the sin. And with the thought, a great awe fell upon me:
could it be--might it not be that God was actually in the
place?--that in the silence he was thinking--in the gloom he was
knowing? I laid myself over the counter, with my face in my hands,
and went on half thinking, half praying. All at once the desire
arose burning in my heart: Would to God my house were in truth a
holy place, haunted by his presence! 'And wherefore not?' rejoined
something within me--heart or brain or something deeper than either.
'Is thy work unholy? Are thy deeds base? Is thy buying or selling
dishonest? Is it all for thyself and nothing for thy fellows? Is it
not a lawful calling? Is it, or is it not, of God? If it be of God,
and yet he be not present, then surely thy lawful calling thou
followest unlawfully." So there I was--brought back to the old
story. And I said to myself, 'God knows I want to follow it
lawfully. Am I not even now seeking how to do so? But this, though
true, did not satisfy me. To follow it lawfully--even in his
sight--no longer seemed enough.--Was there then no possibility of
raising it to dignity? Did the business of Zacchaeus remain, after
the visit of Jesus, a contemptible one still? Could not mine be made
Christian? Was there no corner in the temple where a man might buy
and sell and not be driven out by the whip of small cords?--I heard
a step in the shop, and lifting my head, saw a poor woman with a
child in her arms. Annoyed at being found in that posture, like one
drunk or in despair; annoyed also with myself for not having shut
the door, with my usual first tendency to injustice a harsh word was
trembling on my very lips, when suddenly something made me look
round in a kind of maze on the dusky back shop. A moment more and I
understood: God was waiting to see what truth was in my words. That
is just how I felt it, and I hope I am not irreverent in saying so.
Then I saw that the poor woman looked frightened--I suppose at my
looks and gestures--perhaps she thought me out of my mind. I made
haste and received her, and listened to her errand as if she had
been a duchess--say rather an angel of God, for such I felt her in
my heart to be. She wanted a bit of dark print with a particular
kind of spot in it, which she had seen in the shop some months
before, but had not been able to buy. I turned over everything we
had, and was nearly in despair. At last, however, I found the very
piece which had ever since haunted her fancy--just enough of it
left for a dress! But all the time I sought it, I felt as if I were
doing God service--or at least doing something he wanted me to do.
It sounds almost ludicrous now, but--"

"God forbid!" said Wingfold.

"I'm glad you don't think so, sir. I was afraid you would."

"Had the thing been a trifle, I should still have said the same,"
returned the curate. "But who with any heart would call it--a trifle
to please the fancy of a poor woman, one who is probably far oftener
vexed than pleased? She had been brooding over this dress--you took
trouble to content her with her desire. Who knows what it may do for
the growth of the woman? I know what you've done for me by the story
of it."

"She did walk out pleased-like," said the draper, "--and left me
more pleased than she,--and so grateful to her for coming--you
can't think!"

"I begin to suspect," said the curate, after a pause, "that the
common transactions of life are the most sacred channels for the
spread of the heavenly leaven. There was ten times more of the
divine in selling her that gown as you did, in the name of God, than
in taking her into your pew and singing out of the same hymn-book
with her."

"I should be glad to do that next though, if I had the chance," said
Mr. Drew. "You must not think, because he has done me so little
good, that our minister is not a faithful preacher; and, owing you
more than heart can tell, sir, I like chapel better than church, and
consider it nearer the right way. I don't mean to be a turncoat, and
leave Drake for you, sir; I must give up my deaconship, but I won't
my pew or my subscription."

"Quite right, Mr. Drew," said Wingfold; "that could do nothing but
harm. I have just been reading what our Lord says about
proselytizing. Good night."



CHAPTER X.

HOME AGAIN.



The curate had entered the draper's shop in the full blaze of
sunset, but the demon of unbelief sat on his shoulders; he could get
no nearer his heart, but that was enough to make of the "majestical
roof fretted with golden fire .... a foul and pestilent congregation
of vapours." When he left the shop, the sun was far below the
horizon, and the glory had faded out of the west; but the demon had
fled, and the brown feathers of the twilight were beautiful as the
wings of the silver dove, sprung heavenwards from among the pots.
And as he went he reasoned with himself--

"Either there is a God, and that God the perfect heart of truth and
loveliness, or all poetry and art is but an unsown, unplanted,
rootless flower, crowning a somewhat symmetrical heap of stones. The
man who sees no beauty in its petals, finds no perfume in its
breath, may well accord it the parentage of the stones; the man
whose heart swells beholding it will be ready to think it has roots
that reach below them."

The curate's search, it will be remarked, had already widened
greatly the sphere of his doubts; but, the larger the field, the
greater the chance of finding a marl-pit; and, if there be such a
thing as truth, every fresh doubt is yet another finger-post
pointing towards its dwelling.--So talked the curate to himself,
and, full in the face, rounding the corner of a street, met George
Bascombe.

The young barrister held out his large hospitable hand at the full
length of his arm, and spread abroad his wide chest to greet him,
and they went through the ceremony of shaking hands,--which, even
in their case, I cannot judge so degrading and hypocritical as the
Latin nations seem to consider it. Then Wingfold had the first word.

"I have not yet had an opportunity of thanking you for the great
service you have done me," he said.

"I am glad to know I have such an honour; but--"

"I mean, in opening my eyes to my true position."

"Ah, my dear fellow! I was sure you only required to have your
attention turned in the right direction. When--?--ah!--I--I was on
the verge of committing the solecism of asking you when you thought
of resigning. Ha! ha!"

"Not yet," replied Wingfold to the question thus at once withdrawn
and put. "The more I look into the matter, the more reason I find
for hoping it may be possible for me to--to--keep the appointment."

"Oh!"

"The further I inquire, the more am I convinced that, if not in a
certain portion of what the church teaches, then nowhere else, and
assuredly not in what you teach, shall I find anything by which life
can either account for or justify itself."

"But if what you find is not true!" cried George, with a burst of
semi-grand indignation.

"But if what I find should be true, even though you should never be
able to see it!" returned the curate. And as if disjected by an
explosion between them, the two men were ten paces asunder, each
hurrying his own way.

"If I can't prove there is a God," said Wingfold to himself, "as
little surely can he prove there is none."

But then came the thought--"The fellow will say that, there being no
sign of a God, the burden of proof lies with me." And therewith he
saw how useless it would be to discuss the question with any one
who, not seeing him, had no desire to see him.

"No," he said, "my business is not to prove to any other man that
there is a God, but to find him for myself. If I should find him,
then will be time enough to think of showing him." And with that his
thoughts turned from Bascombe, and went back to the draper.

When he reached home, he took out his sonnet, but, after working at
it for a little while, he found that he must ease his heart by
writing another. Here it is:

    Methought that in a solemn church I stood.
    Its marble acres, worn with knees and feet,
    Lay spread from, door to door, from street to street.
    Midway the form hung high upon the rood
    Of him who gave his life to be our good;
    Beyond, priests flitted, bowed, and murmured meet
    Among the candles shining still and sweet.
    Men came and went, and worshipped as they could,
    And still their dust a woman with her broom,
    Bowed to her work, kept sweeping to the door.
    Then saw I, slow through all the pillared gloom,
    Across the church a silent figure come;
    "Daughter," it said, "thou sweepest well my floor!"
    It is the Lord! I cried; and saw no more.

I suppose, if one could so stop the throat of the blossom-buried
nightingale, that, though he might breathe at will, he could no
longer sing, he would drop from his bough, and die of suppressed
song. Perhaps some men so die--I do not know; it were better than to
live, and to bore their friends with the insuppressible. But,
however this may be, the man who can utter himself to his own joy in
any of the forms of human expression--let him give thanks to God;
and, if he give not his verses to the printer, he will probably have
cause to give thanks again. To the man's self, the utterance is not
the less invaluable. And so Wingfold found it.

He went out again, and into the churchyard, where he sat down on a
stone.

"How strange," he said to himself, "that out of faith should have
sprung that stone church! A poor little poem now and then is all
that stands for mine--all that shows, that is! But my heart does
sometimes burn, within me. If only I could be sure they were HIS
words that set it burning!"



CHAPTER XI.

THE SHEATH.



"Mr. Wingfold," said Polwarth one evening, the usual salutations
over, taking what he commonly left to his friend--the initiative,--"I
want to tell you something I don't wish even Rachel to hear."

He led the way to his room, and the curate followed. Seated there,
in the shadowy old attic, through the very walls of which the ivy
grew, and into which, by the open window in the gable, from the
infinite west, blew the evening air, carrying with it the precious
scent of honeysuckle, to mingle with that of old books, Polwarth
recounted and Wingfold listened to a strange adventure. The trees
hid the sky, and the little human nest was dark around them.

"I am going to make a confidant of you, Mr. Wingfold," said the
dwarf, with troubled face, and almost whispered word. "You will know
how much I have already learned to trust you when I say that what I
am about to confide to you plainly involves the secret of another."

His large face grew paler as he spoke, and something almost like
fear grew in his eyes, but they looked straight into those of the
curate, and his voice did not tremble.

"One night, some weeks ago--I can, if necessary, make myself certain
of the date,--I was--no uncommon thing with me--unable to sleep.
Sometimes, when such is my case, I lie as still and happy as any
bird under the wing of its mother; at other times I must get up and
go out, for I take longings for air almost as a drunkard for wine,
and that night nothing would serve my poor prisoned soul but more
air through the bars of its lungs. I rose, dressed, and went out.

"It was a still, warm night, no moon, but plenty of star-light, the
wind blowing as now, gentle and sweet and cool--just the wind my
lungs sighed for. I got into the open park, avoiding the trees, and
wandered on and on, without thinking where I was going. The turf was
soft under my feet, the dusk soft to my eyes, and the wind to my
soul; I had breath and room and leisure and silence and loneliness,
and everything to make me more than usually happy; and so I wandered
on and on, neither caring nor looking whither I went: so long as the
stars remained unclouded, I could find my way back when I pleased.

"I had been out perhaps an hour, when through the soft air came a
cry, apparently from far off. There was something in the tone that
seemed to me unusually frightful. The bare sound made me shudder
before I had time to say to myself it was a cry. I turned my face in
the direction of it, so far as I could judge, and went on. I cannot
run, for, if I attempt it, I am in a moment unable even to
walk--from palpitation and choking.

"I had not gone very far before I found myself approaching the
hollow where stands the old house of Glaston, uninhabited for twenty
years. Was it possible, I thought, that the cry came from the house,
and had therefore sounded farther off than it was? I stood and
listened for a moment, but all seemed still as the grave. I must go
in, and see whether anyone was there in want of help. You may well
smile at the idea of my helping anyone, for what could I do if it
came to a struggle?"

"On the contrary," interrupted Wingfold, "I was smiling with
admiration of your pluck."

"At least," resumed Polwarth, "I have this advantage over some, that
I cannot be fooled with the fancy that this poor miserable body of
mine is worth thinking of beside the smallest suspicion of duty.
What is it but a cracked jug? So down the slope I went, got into the
garden, and made my way through the tangled bushes to the house. I
knew the place perfectly, for I had often wandered all over it,
sometimes spending hours there.

"Before I reached the door, however, I heard some one behind me in
the garden, and instantly stepped into a thicket of gooseberry and
currant bushes. It is sometimes an advantage to be little--the
moment I stepped aside I was hidden. That same moment the night
seemed rent in twain by a most hideous cry from the house. Ere I
could breathe again after it, the tall figure of a woman rushed past
me, tearing its way through the bushes towards the door. I followed
instantly, saw her run up the steps, and heard her open and shut the
door. I opened it as quietly as I could, but just as I stepped into
the dark hall, came a third fearful cry, through the echoes of which
in the empty house I heard the rush of hurried feet and trailing
garments on the stair. As I say I knew the house quite well, but my
perturbation had so muddled the idea of it in my brain, that for a
few seconds I had to consider how it lay. The moment I recalled its
plan, I made what haste I could, reached the top of the stair, and
was hesitating which way to turn, when once more came the fearful
cry, and set me trembling from head to foot. I cannot describe the
horror of it. It was as the cry of a soul in torture--unlike any
sound of the human voice I had ever before heard. I shudder now at
the recollection of it as it echoed through the house, clinging to
the walls and driven along. I was hurrying I knew not whither, for I
had again lost all notion of the house, when I caught a glimpse of a
light shining from under a door. I approached it softly, and finding
that door inside a small closet, knew at once where I was. As I was
in office on the ground, and it could hardly be any thing righteous
that led to such an outcry in the house, which, although deserted,
was still my master's, I felt justified in searching further into
the matter. Laying my ear therefore against the door, I heard what
was plainly a lady's voice. Right sweet and womanly it was, though
full of pain--even agony, I thought, but heroically suppressed. She
soothed, she expostulated, she condoled, she coaxed. Mingled with
hers was the voice of a youth, as it seemed. It was wild, yet so low
as sometimes to be all but inaudible, and not a word from either
could I distinguish. Hardly the less plain was it, however, that the
youth spoke either in delirium or with something terrible on his
mind, for his tones were those of one in despair. I stood for a time
bewildered, fascinated, terrified. At length I grew convinced
somehow that I had no right to be there. Doubtless the man was in
hiding, and where a man hides there must he reason, but was it any
business of mine? I crept out of the house, and up to the higher
ground. There I drew deep breaths of the sweet night air--so pure
that it seemed to be washing the world clean for another day's uses.
But I had no longer any pleasure in the world. I went straight home,
and to bed again--but had brought little repose with me: I must do
something--but what? The only result certain to follow, was more
trouble to the troubled already. Might there not be innocent reasons
for the questionable situation?--Might not the man have been taken
ill, and so suddenly that he could reach no other shelter? And the
lady might be his wife, who had gone as soon as she could leave him
to find help, but had failed. There MUST be some simple explanation
of the matter, however strange it showed! I might, in the morning,
be of service to them. And partly comforted by the temporary
conclusion, I got a little troubled sleep.

"As soon as I had had a cup of tea, I set out for the old house. I
heard the sounds of the workmen's hammers on the new one as I went.
All else was silence. The day looked so honest and so clear of
conscience that it was difficult to believe the night had shrouded
such an awful meeting. Yet, in the broad light of the forenoon, a
cold shudder seized me when first I looked down on the slack ridges
and broken roofs of the old house. When I got into the garden I
began to sing and knock the bushes about, then opened the door
noisily, and clattered about in the hall and the lower rooms before
going up the stair. Along every passage and into every room I went,
to give good warning ere I approached that in which I had heard the
voices. At length I stood at the door of it and knocked. There was
no answer. I knocked again. Still no answer. I opened it and peeped
in. There was no one there! An old bedstead was all I saw. I
searched every corner, but not one trace could I discover of human
being having been there, except this behind the bed--and it may have
lain there as long as the mattress, which I remember since the first
time I ever went into the house."

As he spoke Polwarth handed to the curate a small leather sheath,
which, from its shape, could not have belonged to a pair of
scissors, although neither of the men knew any sort of knife it
would have fitted.

"Would you mind taking care of it, Mr. Wingfold?" the gate-keeper
continued as the curate examined it; "I don't like having it. I
can't even bear to think of it even in the house, and yet I don't
quite care to destroy it."

"I don't in the least mind taking charge of it," answered Wingfold.

Why was it that, as he said so, the face of Helen Lingard rose
before his mind's eye as he had now seen it twice in the
congregation at the Abbey--pale with an inward trouble as it seemed,
large-eyed and worn--so changed, yet so ennobled? Even then he had
felt the deadening effect of its listlessness, and had had to turn
away lest it should compel him to feel that he was but talking to
the winds, or into a desert where dwelt no voice of human response.
Why should he think of her now? Was it that her troubled pallid face
had touched him--had set something near his heart a trembling,
whether with merely human sympathy or with the tenderness of man for
suffering woman? Certainly he had never till then thought of her
with the slightest interest, and why should she come up to him now?
Could it be that--? Good heavens! There was her brother ill! And had
not Faber said there seemed something unusual about the character of
his illness?--What could it mean?--It was impossible of course--but
yet--and yet--

"Do you think," he said, "we are in any way bound to inquire further
into the affair?"

"If I had thought so, I should not have left it unmentioned till
now," answered Polwarth. "But without being busybodies, we might be
prepared in case the thing should unfold itself, and put it in our
power to be useful. Meantime I have the relief of the confessional."



CHAPTER XII.

INVITATION.



As Wingfold walked back to his lodgings, he found a new element
mingling with the varied matter of his previous inquiry. Human
suffering laid hold upon him--neither as his own nor as that of
humanity, but as that of men and women--known or unknown, it
mattered nothing: there were hearts in the world from whose agony
broke terrible cries, hearts of which sad faces like that of Miss
Lingard were the exponents. Such hearts might be groaning and
writhing in any of the houses he passed, and, even if he knew the
hearts, and what the vampire that sucked their blood, he could do
nothing for their relief.

Little indeed could he have imagined the life of such a
comfort-guarded lady as Miss Lingard, exposed to the intrusion of
any terror-waking monster, from the old ocean of chaos, into the
quiet flow of its meadow-banked river! And what multitudes must
there not be in the world--what multitudes in our island--how many
even in Glaston, whose hearts, lacerated by no remorse, overwhelmed
by no crushing sense of guilt, yet knew their own bitterness, and
had no friend radiant enough to make a sunshine in their shady
places! He fell into mournful mood over the troubles of his race.
Always a kind-hearted fellow, he had not been used to think about
such things; he had had troubles of his own, and had got through at
least some of them; people must have troubles, else would they grow
unendurable for pride and insolence. But now that he had begun to
hope he saw a glimmer somewhere afar at the end of the darksome cave
in which he had all at once discovered that he was buried alive, he
began also to feel how wretched those must be who were groping on
without even a hope in their dark eyes.

If he had never committed any crime, he had yet done wrong enough to
understand the misery of shame and dishonour, and should he not find
a loving human heart the heart of the world, would rejoice--with
what rejoicing might then be possible--to accept George Bascombe's
theory, and drop into the jaws of darkness and cease. How much more
miserable then must those be who had committed some terrible crime,
or dearly loved one who had! What relief, what hope, what lightening
for them! What a breeding nest of vermiculate cares and pains was
this human heart of ours! Oh, surely it needed some refuge! If no
saviour had yet come, the tortured world of human hearts cried aloud
for one with unutterable groaning! What would Bascombe do if he had
committed a murder? Or what could he do for one who had? If fable it
were, it was at least a need--invented one--that of a Saviour to
whom anyone might go, at any moment, without a journey, without
letters or commendations or credentials! And yet no: if it had been
invented, it could hardly be by any one in the need, for such even
now could hardly be brought to believe it. Ill bested were the world
indeed if there were no one beyond whose pardon crime could not go!
Ah! but where was the good of pardon if still the conscious crime
kept stinging? and who would wish one he loved to grow callous to
the crime he had committed? Could one rejoice that his guilty friend
had learned to laugh again, able at length to banish the memory of
the foul thing? Would reviving self-content render him pleasant to
the eyes, and his company precious in the wisdom that springs from
the knowledge of evil? Would not that be the moment when he who had
most assiduously sought to comfort him in his remorse, would first
be tempted to withdraw his foot from his threshold? But if there was
a God--such a God as, according to the Christian story, had sent his
own son into the world--had given him to appear among us, clothed in
the garb of humanity, the armour that can be pierced, to take all
the consequences of being the god of obedience amongst the children
of disobedience, engulfing their wrongs in his infinite forbearance,
and winning them back, by slow and unpromising and tedious renewal,
to the heart of his father, surely such a God would not have created
them, knowing that some of them would sin sins from the horror of
which in themselves all his devotion could not redeem them!--And as
he thought thus, the words arose in his mind--"COME UNTO ME ALL YE
THAT LABOUR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST." His
heart filled. He pondered over them. When he got home he sought and
found them in the book.--Did a man ever really utter them? If a man
did, either he was the most presumptuous of mortals, or HE COULD DO
WHAT HE SAID. If he could, then to have seen and distrusted that
man, Wingfold felt, would have been to destroy in himself the
believing faculty and become incapable of trusting for ever after.
And such a man must, in virtue of his very innocence, know that the
worst weariness and the worst load is evil and crime, and must know
himself able, in full righteousness, with no jugglery of oblivion or
self-esteem, to take off the heavy load and give rest.

"And yet," thought the curate, not without self-reproach, "for one
who will go to him to get the rest, a thousand will ask--HOW CAN HE
THEN DO IT?--As if they should be fit to know!"



CHAPTER XIII.

A SERMON TO HELEN.



All the rest of the week his mind was full of thoughts like these,
amid which ever arose the suffering face of Helen Lingard, bringing
with it the still strengthening suspicion that behind it must lie
some oppressive, perhaps terrible secret. But he made no slightest
movement towards the discovery of it, put not a single question in
any direction for its confirmation or dissolution. He would not look
in at her windows, but what seeds of comfort he could find, he would
scatter wide, and hope that some of them might fall into her garden.

When he raised his head on the Sunday from kneeling, with heart
honest, devout, and neighbourly, in the pulpit before the sermon,
and cast his eyes round his congregation, they rested first, for one
moment and no more, upon the same pallid and troubled countenance
whose reflection had so often of late looked out from the magic
mirror of his memory; the next, they flitted across the satisfied,
healthy, handsome, clever face of her cousin, behind which plainly
sat a conscience well-to-do, in an easy chair; the third, they saw
and fled the peevish autumnal visage of Mrs. Ramshorn; the next,
they roved a little, then rested on the draper's good-humoured disc,
on the white forehead of which brooded a cloud of thoughtfulness.
Last of all they sought the free seats, and found the faces of both
the dwarfs. It was the first time he had seen Rachel's there, and it
struck him that it expressed greater suffering than he had read in
it before. She ought rather to be in bed than in church, he thought.
But the same seemed the case with her uncle's countenance also; and
with that came the conclusion that the pulpit was a wonderful
watch-tower whence to study human nature; that people lay bare more
of their real nature and condition to the man in the pulpit than
they know--even before the sermon. Their faces have fallen into the
shape of their minds, for the church has an isolating as well as
congregating power, and no passing emotion moulds them to an
evanescent show. When Polwarth spoke to a friend, the suffering
melted in issuing radiance; when he sat thus quiescent, patient
endurance was the first thing to be read on his countenance. This
flashed through the curate's mind in the moments ere he began to
speak, and with it came afresh the feeling--one that is, yet ought
not to be sad--that no one of all these hearts could give
summer-weather to another. The tears rose in his eyes as he gazed,
and his heart swelled towards his own flesh and blood, as if his
spirit would break forth in a torrent of ministering tenderness and
comfort. Then he made haste to speak lest he should become unable.
As usual his voice trembled at first, but rose into strength as his
earnestness found way. This is a good deal like what he said:

"The marvellous man who is reported to have appeared in Palestine,
teaching and preaching, seems to have suffered far more from
sympathy with the inward sorrows of his race than from pity for
their bodily pains. These last, could he not have swept from the
earth with a word? and yet it seems to have been mostly, if not
indeed always, only in answer to prayer that he healed them, and
that for the sake of some deeper, some spiritual healing that should
go with the bodily cure. It could not be for the dead man whom he
was about to call from the tomb, that his tears flowed. What source
could they have but compassion and pitiful sympathy for the sorrows
of the dead man's sisters and friends who had not the inward joy
that sustained himself, and the thought of all the pains and
heartaches of those that looked in the face of death--the meanings
of love--torn generations, the blackness of bereavement that had
stormed through the ever changing world of human hearts since first
man had been made in the image of his Father? Yet are there far more
terrible troubles than this death--which I trust can only part, not
keep apart. There is the weight of conscious wrong being and wrong
doing--that is the gravestone that needs to be rolled away ere a man
can rise to life. Call to mind how Jesus used to forgive men's sins,
thus lifting from their hearts the crushing load that paralyzed all
their efforts. Recall the tenderness with which he received those
from whom the religious of his day turned aside--the repentant women
who wept sore-hearted from very love, the publicans who knew they
were despised because they were despicable. With him they sought and
found shelter. He was their saviour from the storm of human judgment
and the biting frost of public opinion, even when that opinion and
that judgment were re-echoed by the justice of their own hearts. He
received them, and the life within them rose up, and the light
shone--the conscious light of light, despite even of shame and
self-reproach. If God be for us who can be against us? In his name
they rose from the hell of their own hearts' condemnation, and went
forth to do the truth in strength and hope. They heard and believed
and obeyed his words. And of all words that ever were spoken, were
ever words gentler, tenderer, humbler, lovelier--if true, or more
arrogant, man-degrading, God-defying--if false, than these,
concerning which, as his, I now desire to speak to you: 'Come unto
me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you
rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and
lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke
is easy, and my burden is light'?

"Surely these words, could they but be heartily believed, are such
as every human heart might gladly hear! What man is there who has
not had, has not now, or will not have to class himself amongst the
weary and heavy-laden? Ye who call yourselves Christians profess to
believe such rest is to be had, yet how many of you go bowed to the
very earth, and take no single step towards him who says Come, lift
not an eye to see whether a face of mercy may not be looking down
upon you! Is it that, after all, you do not believe there ever was
such a man as they call Jesus? That can hardly be. There are few so
ignorant, or so wilfully illogical as to be able to disbelieve in
the existence of the man, or that he spoke words to this effect. Is
it then that you are doubtful concerning the whole import of his
appearance? In that case, were it but as a doubtful medicine, would
it not be well to make some trial of the offer made? If the man said
the words, he must have at least believed that he could fulfil them.
Who that knows anything of him at all can for a moment hold that
this man spoke what he did not believe? The best of the Jews who yet
do not believe in him, say of him that he was a good though mistaken
man. Will a man lie for the privilege of being despised and rejected
of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief? What but the
confidence of truth could have sustained him when he knew that even
those who loved him would have left him had they believed what he
told them of his coming fate?--But then: believing what he said,
might he not have been mistaken?--A man can hardly be mistaken as to
whether he is at peace or not--whether he has rest in his soul or
not. Neither I think can a man well be mistaken as to whence comes
the peace he possesses,--as to the well whence he draws his comfort.
The miser knows his comfort is his gold. Was Jesus likely to be
mistaken when he supposed himself to know that his comfort came from
his God? Anyhow he believed that his peace came from his
obedience--from his oneness with the will of his Father. Friends, if
I had such peace as was plainly his, should I not know well whence
it came?--But I think I hear some one say: 'Doubtless the good man
derived comfort from the thought of his Father, but might he not be
mistaken in supposing there was any Father?' Hear me, my friends: I
dare not say I know there is a Father. I dare not even say I think,
I can only say with my whole heart I hope we have indeed a Father in
heaven; but this man says HE KNOWS. Am I to say he does not know?
Can I, who know so much I would gladly have otherwise in myself,
imagine him less honest than I am? If he tells me he knows, I am
dumb and listen. One I KNOW: THERE IS--outweighs a whole creation of
voices crying each I KNOW NOT, THEREFORE THERE IS NOT. And observe
it is his own, his own best he wants to give them--no bribe to
obedience to his will, but the assurance of bliss if they will do as
he does. He wants them to have peace--HIS peace--peace from the same
source whence he has it. For what does he mean by TAKE MY YOKE UPON
YOU, AND LEARN OF ME? He does not mean WEAR THE YOKE I LAY UPON
YOU, AND OBEY MY WORDS. I do not say he might not have said so, or
that he does not say what comes to the same thing at other times,
but that is not what he says here--that is not the truth he would
convey in these words. He means TAKE UPON YOU THE YOKE I WEAR;
LEARN TO DO AS I DO, WHO SUBMIT EVERYTHING AND REFER EVERYTHING TO
THE WILL OF MY FATHER, YEA HAVE MY WILL ONLY IN THE CARRYING OUT OF
HIS: BE MEEK AND LOWLY IN HEART, AND YE SHALL FIND REST UNTO YOUR
SOULS. With all the grief of humanity in his heart, in the face of
the death that awaited him, he yet says, FOR MY YOKE, THE YOKE I
WEAR, IS EASY, THE BURDEN I BEAR IS LIGHT. What made that yoke
easy,--that burden light? That it was the will of the Father. If a
man answer: 'Any good man who believed in a God, might say as much,
and I do not see how it can help me;' my reply is, that this man
says, COME UNTO ME, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST--asserting the power
to give perfect help to him that comes.--Does all this look far
away, my friends, and very unlike the things about us? The things
about you do not give you peace; from something different you may
hope to gain it. And do not our souls themselves fall out with their
surroundings, and cry for a nobler, better, more beautiful life?

"But some one will perhaps say: 'It is well; but were I meek and
lowly in heart as he of whom you speak, it could not touch MY
trouble: that springs not from myself, but from one I love.' I
answer, if the peace be the peace of the Son of man, it must reach
to every cause of unrest. And if thou hadst it, would it not then be
next door to thy friend? How shall he whom thou lovest receive it
the most readily--but through thee who lovest him? What if thy
faith should be the next step to his? Anyhow, if this peace be not
an all-reaching as well as a heart-filling peace; if it be not a
righteous and a lovely peace, and that in despite of all surrounding
and opposing troubles, then it is not the peace of God, for that
passeth all understanding:--so at least say they who profess to
know, and I desire to take them at their word. If thy trouble be a
trouble thy God cannot set right, then either thy God is not the
true God, or there is no true God, and the man who professed to
reveal him led the one perfect life in virtue of his faith in a
falsehood. Alas for poor men and women and their aching hearts!--If
it offend any of you that I speak of Jesus as THE MAN who professed
to reveal God, I answer, that the man I see, and he draws me as with
the strength of the adorable Truth; but if in him I should certainly
find the God for the lack of whose peace I and my brethren and
sisters pine, then were heaven itself too narrow to hold my
exultation, for in God himself alone could my joy find room.

"Come then, sore heart, and see whether his heart cannot heal thine.
He knows what sighs and tears are, and if he knew no sin in himself,
the more pitiful must it have been to him to behold the sighs and
tears that guilt wrung from the tortured hearts of his brethren and
sisters. Brothers, sisters, we MUST get rid of this misery of ours.
It is slaying us. It is turning the fair earth into a hell, and our
hearts into its fuel. There stands the man, who says he knows: take
him at his word. Go to him who says in the might of his eternal
tenderness and his human pity--COME UNTO ME, ALL YE THAT LABOUR AND
ARE HEAVY-LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST. TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU, AND
LEARN OF ME; FOR I AM MEEK AND LOWLY IN HEART: AND YE SHALL FIND
REST UNTO YOUR SOULS. FOR MY YOKE IS EASY AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT."



CHAPTER XIV.

A SERMON TO HIMSELF.



Long ere he thus came to a close, Wingfold was blind to all and
every individuality before him--felt only the general suffering of
the human soul, and the new-born hope for it that lay in the story
of the ideal man, the human God. He did not see that Helen's head
was down on the book-board. She was sobbing convulsively. In some
way the word had touched her, and had unsealed the fountain of
tears, if not of faith. Neither did he see the curl on the lip of
Bascombe, or the glance of annoyance which, every now and then, he
cast upon the bent head beside him. "What on earth are you crying
about? It is all in the way of his business, you know," said
Bascombe's eyes, but Helen did not hear them. One or two more in the
congregation were weeping, and here and there shone a face in which
the light seemed to prevent the tears. Polwarth shone and Rachel
wept. For the rest, the congregation listened only with varying
degrees of attention and indifference. The larger portion looked as
if neither Wingfold nor any other body ever meant anything--at least
in the pulpit.

The moment Wingfold reached the vestry, he hurried off the garments
of his profession, sped from the Abbey, and all but ran across the
church-yard to his lodging. There he shut himself up in his chamber,
fearful lest he should have said more than he had yet a right to
say, and lest ebbing emotion should uncover the fact that he had
been but "fired by the running of his own wheels," and not inspired
by the guide of "the fiery-wheeled throne, the cherub Contemplation."
There, from the congregation, from the church, from the sermon, from
the past altogether, he turned aside his face and would forget them
quite.

What had he to do with the thing that was done,--done with, and
gone, either into the treasury or the lumber-room, of creation?
Towards the hills of help he turned his face--to the summits over
whose tops he looked for the dayspring from on high to break forth.
If only Christ would come to him!--Do what he might, however, his
thoughts WOULD wander back to the great gothic gulf into which he
had been pouring out his soul, and the greater human gulfs that
opened into the ancient pile, whose mouths were the faces that hid
the floor beneath them--until at length he was altogether vexed with
himself for being interested in what he had done, instead of
absorbed in what he had yet to do. He left therefore his chamber,
and placed himself at a side-table in his sitting-room, while his
landlady prepared the other for his dinner. She too had been at
church that morning, whence it came that she moved about and set the
things on the table with unusual softness, causing him no
interruption while he wrote down a line here and there of what
afterwards grew into the following verses--born in the effort to
forget the things that were behind, and reach forth after the things
that lay before him.

    Yes, Master, when thou comest thou shalt find
        A little faith on earth, if I am here!
    Thou know'st how oft I turn to thee my mind,
        How sad I wait until thy face appear!

    Hast thou not ploughed my thorny ground full sore,
        And from it gathered many stones and sherds?
    Plough, plough and harrow till it needs no more--
        Then sow thy mustard-seed, and send thy birds.

    I love thee, Lord; and if I yield to fears,
        Nor trust with triumph that pale doubt defies,
    Remember, Lord, 'tis nigh two thousand years,
        And I have never seen thee with mine eyes.

    And when I lift them from the wondrous tale,
        See, all about me has so strange a show!
    Is that thy river running down the vale?
        Is that thy wind that through the pines doth blow?

    Couldst thou right verily appear again,
        The same who walked the paths of Palestine,
    And here in England teach thy trusting men,
        In church and field and house, with word and sign?

    Here are but lilies, sparrows, and the rest!--
        My hands on some dear proof would light and stay!
    But my heart sees John leaning on thy breast,
        And sends them forth to do what thou dost say.



CHAPTER XV.

CRITICISM.



"Extraordinary young man!" exclaimed Mrs. Ramshorn as they left the
church, with a sigh that expressed despair. "Is he an infidel or a
fanatic? a Jesuit or a Socinian?"

"If he would pay a little more attention to his composition," said
Bascombe indifferently, "he might in time make of himself a good
speaker. I am not at all sure there are not the elements of an
orator in him, if he would only reflect a little on the fine
relations between speech and passion, and learn of the best models
how to play upon the feelings of a congregation. I declare I don't
know, but he might make a great man of himself. As long as he don't
finish his sentences however, jumbles his figures, and begins and
ends abruptly without either exordium or peroration, he needn't look
to make anything of a preacher--and that seems his object."

"If that be his object, he had better join the Methodists at once.
He would be a treasure to them," said Mrs. Ramshorn.

"That is not his object, George. How can you say so?" remarked Helen
quietly, but with some latent indignation.

George smiled a rather unpleasant smile and held his peace.

Little more was said on the way home. Helen went to take off her
bonnet, but did not re-appear until she was called to their early
Sunday dinner.

Now George had counted upon a turn in the garden with her before
dinner, and was annoyed--more, it is true, because of the emotion
which he rightly judged the cause of her not joining him, than the
necessity laid on him of eating his dinner without having first
unburdened his mind; but the latter fact also had its share in
vexing him.

When she came into the drawing-room it was plain she had been
weeping; but, although they were alone, and would probably have to
wait yet a few minutes before their aunt joined them, he resolved in
his good nature to be considerate, and say nothing till after
dinner, lest he should spoil her appetite. When they rose from the
table, she would have again escaped, but when George left his wine
and followed her, she consented, at his urgent, almost expostulatory
request, to walk once round the garden with him.

As soon as they were out of sight of the windows, he began--in the
tone of one whose love it is that prompts rebuke.

"How COULD you, my dear Helen, have so little care of your health,
already so much shaken with nursing your brother, as to yield your
mind to the maundering of that silly ecclesiastic, and allow his
false eloquence to untune your nerves! Remember your health is the
first thing--positively the FIRST and foremost thing to be
considered, both for your own sake and that of your friends. Without
health, what is anything worth?"

Helen made no answer, but she thought with herself there were two or
three things for the sake of which she would willingly part with a
considerable portion of her health. Her cousin imagined her
conscience-stricken, and resumed with yet greater confidence.

"If you MUST go to church, you ought to prepare yourself beforehand
by firmly impressing on your mind the fact that the whole thing is
but part of a system--part of a false system; that the preacher has
been brought up to the trade of religion, that it is his business,
and that he must lay himself out to persuade people--himself first
of all if he can, but anyhow his congregation, of the truth of
everything contained in that farrago of priestly absurdities--
called the Bible, forsooth! as if there were no other book worthy to
be mentioned beside it. Think for a moment how soon, were it not for
their churches and prayers and music and their tomfoolery of
preaching, the whole precious edifice would topple about their ears,
and the livelihood, the means of contentment and influence, would be
gone from so many restless paltering spirits! So what is left them
but to play upon the hopes and fears and diseased consciences of men
as they best can! The idiot! To tell a man when he is hipped to COME
UNTO ME! Bah! Does the fool really expect any grown man or woman to
believe in his or her brain that the man who spoke those words, if
ever there was a man who spoke them, can at this moment anni
domini"--George liked to be correct--"1870, hear whatever silly
words the Rev. Mr. Wingfold, or any other human biped, may think
proper to address to him with his face buried in his blankets by his
bedside or in his surplice over the pulpit-bible?--not to mention
that they would have you believe, or be damned to all eternity, that
every thought vibrated in the convolutions of your brain is known to
him as well as to yourself! The thing is really too absurd! Ha! ha!
ha! The man died--the death of a malefactor, they say; and his body
was stolen from his grave by his followers, that they might impose
thousands of years of absurdity upon generations to come after them.
And now, when a fellow feels miserable, he is to cry to that dead
man, who said of himself that he was meek and lowly in heart, and
straightway the poor beggar shall find rest to his soul! All I can
say is that, if he find rest so, it will be the rest of an idiot!
Believe me, Helen, a good Havannah and a bottle of claret would be
considerably more to the purpose;--for ladies, perhaps rather a cup
of tea and a little Beethoven!" Here he laughed, for the rush of his
eloquence had swept away his bad humour. "But really," he went on,
"the whole is TOO absurd to talk about. To go whining after an old
Jew fable in these days of progress! Why, what do you think is the
last discovery about light?"

"You will allow this much in excuse for their being so misled,"
returned Helen, with some bitterness, "that the old fable pretends
at least to provide help for sore hearts; and except it be
vivisection, I----"

"Do be serious, Helen," interrupted George. "I don't object to
joking, you know, but you are not joking in a right spirit. This
matter has to do with the well-being of the race; and we MUST think
of others, however your Jew-gospel, in the genuine spirit of the
Hebrew of all time, would set everybody to the saving of his own
wind-bubble of a soul. Believe me, to live for others is the true
way to lose sight of our own fancied sorrows."

Helen gave a deep sigh. Fancied sorrows!--Yes, gladly indeed would
she live for ONE other at least! Nay more--she would die for him.
But alas! what would that do for one whose very being was consumed
with grief ineffable!--She must speak, else he would read her heart.

"There are real sorrows," she said. "They are not all fancied."

"There are very few sorrows," returned George, "in which fancy does
not bear a stronger proportion than even a woman of sense, while the
fancy is upon her, will be prepared to admit. I can remember bursts
of grief when I was a boy, in which it seemed impossible anything
should ever console me; but in one minute all would be gone, and my
heart, or my spleen, or my diaphragm, as merry as ever. Believe that
all is well, and you will find all will be well--very tolerably
well, that is, considering."

"Considering that the well-being has to be divided and apportioned
and accommodated to the various parts of such a huge whole, and that
there is no God to look after the business!" said Helen, who,
according to the state of the tide in the sea of her trouble,
resented or accepted her cousin's teaching.

Few women are willing to believe in death. Most of them love life,
and are faithful to hope; and I much doubt whether, if Helen had but
had a taste of trouble to rouse the woman within her before her
cousin conceived the wish of making her a proselyte, she would have
turned even a tolerably patient ear to his instructions. Yet it is
strange to see how even noble women, with the divine gift of
imagination, may be argued into unbelief in their best instincts by
some small man, as common-place as clever, who beside them is as
limestone to marble. The knowing craft comes creeping up into the
shadow of the rich galleon, and lo, with all her bountiful sails
gleaming in the sun, the ship of God glides off in the wake of the
felucca to the sweltering hollows betwixt the winds!

"You perplex me, my dear cousin," said Bascombe. "It is plain your
nursing has been too much for you. You see everything with a
jaundiced eye."

"Thank you, Cousin George," said Helen. "You are even more courteous
than usual."

She turned from him and went into the house. Bascombe walked to the
bottom of the garden and lighted his cigar, confessing to himself
that for once he could not understand Helen.--Was it then only that
he was ignorant of the awful fact that lay burrowing in her heart,
or was he not ignorant also of the nature of that heart in which
such a fact must so burrow? Was there anything in his system to wipe
off that burning, torturing red? "Such things must be: men who wrong
society must suffer for the sake of that society." But the red lay
burning on the conscience of Helen too, and she had not murdered!
And for him who had, he gave society never a thought, but shrieked
aloud in his dreams, and moaned and wept when he waked over the
memory of the woman who had wronged him, and whom he had, if
Bascombe was right, swept out of being like an aphis from a
rose-leaf.



CHAPTER XVI.

A VANISHING GLIMMER.



Helen ran upstairs, dropped on her knees by her brother's bedside,
and fell into a fit of sobbing, which no tears came to relieve.

"Helen! Helen! if you give way I shall go mad," said a voice of
misery from the pillow.

She jumped up, wiping her dry eyes.

"What a wicked, selfish, bad sister, bad nurse, bad everything, I
am, Poldie!" she said, her tone ascending the steps of vocal
indignation as she spoke. "But shall I tell you"--here she looked
all about the chamber and into the dressing-room ere she
proceeded--"shall I tell you, Poldie, what it is that makes me so--
I don't know what?--It is all the fault of the sermon I heard this
morning. It is the first sermon I ever really listened to in my
life--certainly the first I ever thought about again after I was
out of the church. Somehow or other of late Mr. Wingfold has been
preaching so strangely! but this is the first time I have cared to
listen. Do you know he preaches as if he actually believed the
things he was saying, and not only that, but as if he expected to
persuade you of them too! I USED to think all clergymen believed
them, but I doubt it now more than ever, for Mr. Wingfold speaks so
differently and looks so different. I never saw any clergyman look
like that; and I never saw such a change on a man as there is on
him. There must be something to account for it. Could it be that he
has himself really gone to--as he says--and found rest--or something
he hadn't got before? But you won't know what I mean unless I tell
you first what he was preaching about. His text was: Come unto me
all ye that labour and are heavy laden;--a common enough text, you
know? Poldie! but somehow it seemed fresh to him, and he made it
look fresh to me, for I felt as if it hadn't been intended for
preaching about at all, but for going straight into people's hearts
its own self, without any sermon. I think the way he did it was
this: he first made us feel the sort of person that said the words,
and then made us feel that he did say them, and so made us want to
see what they could really mean. But of course what made them so
different to me, was"--here Helen did burst into tears, but she
fought with her sobs, and went on--"was--was--that my heart is
breaking for you, Poldie--for I shall never see you smile again, my
darling!"

She buried her face on his pillow, and Leopold uttered "a great and
exceeding bitter cry." Her hand was on his mouth instantly, and her
sobs ceased, while the tears kept flowing down her white face.

"Just think, Poldie," she said, in a voice which she seemed to have
borrowed in her need from some one else, "--just think a moment!
What if there should be some help in the great wide universe--somewhere,
for as wide as it is--a heart that feels for us both, as my heart
feels for you, Poldie! Oh! oh! wouldn't it be grand? Wouldn't it be
lovely to be at peace again, Poldie? If there should be somebody
somewhere who could take this gnawing serpent from my heart!"--She
pulled wildly at her dress.--"'Come unto me,' he said, 'all ye that
labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' That's what
he said:--oh! if it could be true!"

"Surely it is--for you, best of sisters," cried Leopold; "but what
has it to do with me? Nothing. She is DEAD--I killed her. Even if
God were to raise her to life again, HE could not make it that I
didn't drive the knife into her heart! Give ME rest!--why there's
the hand that did it! O my God! my God!" cried the poor youth, and
stared at his thin wasted hand, through which the light shone red,
as at a conscious evil thing that had done the deed, and was still
stained with its signs.

"God CAN'T be very angry with you, Poldie," sobbed Helen, feeling
about blindly in the dark forest of her thoughts for some herb of
comfort, and offering any leaf upon which her hand fell first.

"Then he ain't fit to be God!" cried Leopold fiercely. "I wouldn't
have a word to say to a God that didn't cut a man in pieces for such
a deed! Oh Helen, she was so lovely!--and what is she now?"

"Surely if there were a God, he would do something to set it right
somehow! I know if I was God, Poldie, I should find some way of
setting you up again, my darling. You ain't half as bad as you make
yourself out."

"You had better tell that to the jury, Helen, and see how they will
take it," said Leopold contemptuously.

"The jury!" Helen almost screamed. "What do you mean, Poldie?"

"Well!" returned Leopold, in a tone of justification, but made no
further answer to her question. "All God can do to set it right," he
resumed, after a pause, "is to damn me for ever and ever, as one of
the blackest creatures in creation."

"THAT I don't believe, anyhow!" returned Helen with equal vehemence
and indefiniteness.

And for the first time, George Bascombe's teachings were a comfort
to her. It was all nonsense about a God. As to her brother's misery,
it had no source but that to which Shakespeare attributed the misery
of Macbeth--and who should know better than Shakespeare?--the
fear, namely, of people doing the like to himself! But straightway
thereupon--horrible thought!--she found herself--yes! it was in
her--call it thought, or call it feeling, it was hers!--she found
herself despising her poor crushed brother! disgusted with him!
turning from him, not even in scorn of his weakness, but in anger at
what he had brought upon her! It was but a flash of the lightning of
hell: one glance of his great, troubled, appealing, yet hopeless
eyes, vague with the fogs that steamed up from the Phlegethon within
him, was enough to turn her anger at him into hate of herself who
had stabbed his angel in her heart. Then in herself she knew that
all murderers are not of Macbeth's order, and that all remorse is
not for oneself.

But where was the God to be found who could and MIGHT help in the
wretched case? How were they to approach him? Or what could he do
for them? Were such a being to assure Leopold that no hurt should
come to him--even that he thought little of the wrong that he had
done--would that make his crushed heart begin to swell again with
fresh life? would that bring back Emmeline from the dark grave and
the worms to the sunny earth and the speech of men? And whither, yet
farther, he might have sent her, she dared not think. And Leopold
was not merely at strife with himself, but condemned to dwell with a
self that was loathsome to him. She no longer saw any glimmer of
hope but such as lay in George's doctrine of death. If there was no
helper who could clean hearts and revive the light of life, then
welcome gaunt death! let the grim-mouthed skeleton be crowned at
every feast!



CHAPTER XVII.

LET US PRAY!



That was the sole chink in the prison where these two sat immured
alone from their kind--unless, indeed, the curate might know of
another.

One thing Helen had ground for being certain of--that the curate
would tell them no more than he knew. Even George Bascombe, who did
not believe one thing he said, counted him an honest man! Might she
venture to consult him, putting the case as of a person who had done
very wrong--say stolen money or committed forgery or something?
Might she not thus gather a little honey of comfort and bring it
home to Leopold?

Thinking thus and thus she sat silent; and all the time the
suffering eyes were fixed upon her face, looking for no comfort, but
finding there all they ever had of rest.

"Are you thinking about the sermon, Helen?" he asked. "What was it
you were telling me about it just now? Who preached it?"

"Mr. Wingfold," she answered listlessly.

"Who is Mr. Wingfold?"

"Our curate at the Abbey."

"What sort of man is he?"

"Oh, a man somewhere about thirty--a straightforward, ordinary kind
of man."

"Ah!" said Leopld--then added after a moment--"I was hoping he
might be an old man, with a grey head, like the brahmin who used to
teach me Sanscrit.--I wish I had treated him better, poor old
fellow! and learned a little more."

"What does it matter about Sanscrit? Why should you make troubles of
trifles?" said Helen, whose trials had at last begun to undermine
her temper.

"It was not of the Sanscrit, but the moonshee I was thinking,"
answered Leopold mildly.

"You darling!" cried Helen, already repentant. But with the
revulsion she felt that this state of things could not long
continue--she must either lose her senses, or turn into something
hateful to herself: the strain was more than she could bear. She
MUST speak to somebody, and she would try whether she could not
approach the subject with Mr. Wingfold.

But how was she to see him? It would be awkward to call upon him at
his lodgings, and she must see him absolutely alone to dare a
whisper of what was on her mind.

As she thus reflected, the thought of what people would say, were it
remarked that she contrived to meet the curate, brought a shadow of
scorn upon her face. Leopold saw the expression, and, sensitive as
an ailing woman, said,

"Helen, what HAVE I done to make you look like that?"

"How did I look, my Poldie?" she asked, turning on him eyes like
brimming wells of love and tenderness.

"Let me see," answered Leopold; and after a moment's thought
replied, "As Milton's Satan might have looked if Mammon had
counselled him to make off with the crown-jewels instead of
declaring war."

"Ah, Poldie!" cried Helen, delighted at the stray glance of
sunshine, and kissing him as she spoke, "you must really be better!
I'll tell you what!" she exclaimed joyfully, as a new thought struck
her: "As soon as you are able, we will set out for New York--to pay
Uncle Tom a visit of course! but we shall never be seen or heard of
again. At New York we will change our names, cross to San Francisco,
and from there sail for the Sandwich Islands. Perhaps we may be able
to find a little one to buy, just big enough for us two; and you
shall marry a nice native----"

Her forced gaiety gave way. She burst out weeping afresh, and
throwing her arms round him, sobbed--

"Poldie, Poldie! you can pray: cry to God to help us somehow or
other; and if there be no God to hear us, then let us die together.
There are easy ways of it, Poldie."

"Thank you! thank you, sister dear!" he answered, pressing her to
his bosom: "that is the first word of real comfort you have spoken
to me. I shall not be afraid if you go with me."

It was indeed a comfort to both of them to remember that there was
this alternative equally to the gallows and a long life of gnawing
fear and remorse. But it was only to be a last refuge of course.
Helen withdrew to the dressing-room, laid herself on her bed, and
began to compass how to meet and circumvent the curate, so as by an
innocent cunning to wile from him on false pretences what spiritual
balm she might so gain for the torn heart and conscience of her
brother. There was no doubt it would be genuine, and the best to be
had, seeing George Bascombe, who was honesty itself, judged the
curate an honest man. But how was it to be done? She could see only
one way. With some inconsistency, she resolved to cast herself on
his generosity, and yet would not trust him entirely.

She did not go downstairs again, but had her tea with her brother.
In the evening her aunt went out to visit some of her pensioners,
for it was one of Mrs. Ramshorn's clerical duties to be kind to the
poor--a good deal at their expense, I am afraid--and presently
George came to the door of the sick-room to beg her to go down and
sing to him. Of course, in the house of a dean's relict, no music
except sacred must be heard on a Sunday; but to have Helen sing it,
George would condescend even to a hymn tune; and there was Handel,
for whom he professed a great admiration! What mattered his
subjects? He could but compose the sort of thing the court wanted of
him, and in order to that, had to fuddle his brains first, poor
fellow! So said George at least.

That Leopold might not hear them talking outside his door, a thing
which no invalid likes, Helen went downstairs with her cousin; but
although she had often sung from Handel for his pleasure, content to
reproduce the bare sounds, and caring nothing about the feelings
both they and the words represented, she positively refused this
evening to gratify him. She must go back to Leopold. She would sing
from The Creation if he liked, but nothing out of The Messiah would
she or could she sing.

Perhaps she could herself hardly have told why, but George perceived
the lingering influence of the morning's sermon, and more vexed than
he had ever yet been with her, for he could not endure her to
cherish the least prejudice in favour of what he despised, he said
he would overtake his aunt, and left the house. The moment he was
gone, she went to the piano, and began to sing, "Comfort ye." When
she came to "Come unto me," she broke down. But with sudden
resolution she rose, and, having opened every door between it and
her brother, raised the top of the piano, and then sang, "Come unto
me," as she had never sung in her life. Nor did she stop there. At
the distance of six of the wide-standing houses, her aunt and cousin
heard her singing "Thou didst not leave," with the tone and
expression of a prophetess--of a Maenad, George said. She was still
singing when he opened the door, but when they reached the
drawing-room she was gone. She was kneeling beside her brother.



CHAPTER XVIII.

TWO LETTERS.



The next morning, as Wingfold ate his breakfast by an open window
looking across the churchyard, he received a letter by the local
post. It was as follows:--

"Dear Mr. Wingfold, I am about to take an unheard-of liberty, but my
reasons are such as make me bold. The day may come when I shall be
able to tell you them all. Meantime I hope you can help me. I want
very much to ask your counsel upon a certain matter, and I cannot
beg you to call, for my aunt knows nothing of it. Could you contrive
a suitable way of meeting? You may imagine my necessity is grievous
when I thus expose myself to the possible bitterness of my own after
judgment. But I must have confidence in the man who spoke as you did
yesterday morning. I am, dear Mr. Wingfold, sincerely yours, Helen
Lingard.

"P.S.--I shall be walking along Pine Street from our end, at eleven
o'clock to-morrow."

The curate was not taken with a great surprise. But something like
fear overshadowed him at finding his sermons come back upon him
thus. Was he, an unbelieving labourer, to go reaping with his blunt
and broken sickle where the corn was ripest! But he had no time to
think about that now. It was nearly ten o'clock, and she would be
looking for her answer at eleven. He had not to think long, however,
before he saw what seemed a suitable plan to suggest; whereupon he
wrote as follows:

"Dear Miss Lingard, I need not say that I am entirely at your
service. But I am doubtful if the only way that occurs to me will
commend itself to you. I know what I am about to propose is safe,
but you may not have sufficient confidence in my judgment to accept
it as such.

"Doubtless you have seen the two deformed persons, an uncle and
niece, named Polwarth, who keep the gate of Osterfield Park. I know
them well, and, strange as it may seem, I must tell you, in order
that you may partake of my confidence, that whatever change you may
have observed in my public work is owing to the influence of those
two, who have more faith in God than I have ever met with before. It
may not be amiss to mention also that, although poor and distorted,
they are of gentle blood as well as noble nature. With this
preamble, I venture to propose that you should meet me at their
cottage. To them it would not appear at all strange that one of my
congregation should wish to see me alone, and I know you may trust
their discretion. But while I write thus, with all confidence in you
and in them, I must tell you that I have none in myself. I feel both
ashamed and perplexed that you should imagine any help in me. Of all
I know, I am the poorest creature to give counsel. All I can say for
myself is that I think I see a glimmer of light, and light is light,
through whatever cranny, and into whatever poverty-stricken chamber,
it may fall. Whatever I see I will say. If I can see nothing to help
you, I will be silent. And yet I may be able to direct you where to
find what I cannot give you. If you accept my plan, and will appoint
day and hour, I shall acquaint the Polwarths with the service we
desire of them. Should you object to it, I shall try to think of
another. I am, dear Miss Lingard, yours very truly, Thomas
Wingfold."

He placed the letter between the pages of a pamphlet, took his hat
and stick, and was walking down Pine Street as the Abbey clock
struck eleven. Midway he met Helen, shook hands with her, and, after
an indifferent word or two, gave her the pamphlet, and bade her good
morning.

Helen hurried home. It had required all her self-command to look him
in the face, and her heart beat almost painfully as she opened the
letter.

She could not but be pleased--even more than pleased with it. If the
secret had been her own, she thought she could have trusted him
entirely; but she must not expose poor Leopold.

By the next post the curate received a grateful answer, appointing
the time, and expressing perfect readiness to trust those whom he
had tried.

She was received at the cottage door by Rachel, who asked her to
walk into the garden, where Mr. Wingfold was expecting her. The
curate led her to a seat overgrown with honeysuckle.



CHAPTER XIX.

ADVICE IN THE DARK.



It was some moments before either of them spoke, and it did not help
Wingfold that she sat clouded by a dark-coloured veil. At length he
said,

"You must not fear to trust me because I doubt my ability to help
you. I can at least assure you of my sympathy. The trouble I have
myself had enables me to promise you that."

"Can you tell me," she said, from behind more veils than that of
lace, "how to get rid of a haunting idea?"

"That depends on the nature of the idea, I should imagine," answered
the curate. "Such things sometimes arise merely from the state of
the health, and there the doctor is the best help."

Helen shook her head, and smiled behind her veil a grievous smile.
The curate paused, but, receiving no assistance, ventured on again.

"If it be a thought of something past and gone, for which nothing
can be done, I think activity in one's daily work must be the best
aid to endurance."

"Oh dear! oh dear!" sighed Helen--"when one has no heart to endure,
and hates the very sunlight!--You wouldn't talk about work to a man
dying of hunger, would you?"

"I'm not sure about that."

"He wouldn't heed you."

"Perhaps not."

"What would you do then?"

"Give him some food, and try him again, I think."

"Then give me some food--some hope, I mean, and try me again.
Without that, I don't care about duty or life or anything."

"Tell me, then, what is the matter; I MAY be able to hint at some
hope," said Wingfold, very gently. "Do you call yourself a
Christian?"

The question would to most people have sounded strange, abrupt,
inquisitorial; but to Helen it sounded not one of them all.

"No," she answered.

"Ah!" said the curate a little sadly, and went on. "Because then I
could have said, you know where to go for comfort.--Might it not be
well however to try if there is any to be had from him that said
'COME UNTO ME, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST?'"

"I can do nothing with that. I have tried and tried to pray, but it
is of no use. There is such a weight on my heart that no power of
mine can lift it up. I suppose it is because I cannot believe there
is anyone hearing a word I say. Yesterday, when I got alone in the
park, I prayed aloud: I thought that perhaps, even if he might not
be able to read what was in my heart, he might be able to hear my
voice. I was even foolish enough to wish I knew Greek, because
perhaps he would understand me better if I were to pray in Greek. My
brain seems turning. It is of no use! There is no help anywhere!"

She tried hard, but could not prevent a sob. And then came a burst
of tears.

"Will you not tell me something about it?" said the curate, yet more
gently. Oh, how gladly would he relieve her heart if he might!
"Perhaps Jesus has begun to give you help, though you do not know it
yet," he said, "His help may be on the way to you, or even with you,
only you do not recognize it for what it is. I have known that kind
of thing. Tell me some fact or some feeling I can lay hold of.
Possibly there is something you ought to do and are not doing, and
that is why you cannot rest. I think Jesus would give no rest except
in the way of learning of him."

Helen's sobs ceased, but what appeared to the curate a long silence
followed. At length she said, with faltering voice:

"Suppose it were a great wrong that had been done, and that was the
unendurable thought? SUPPOSE, I say, that was what made me
miserable!"

"Then you must of course make all possible reparation," answered
Wingfold at once.

"But if none were possible--what then?"

Here the answer was not so plain, and the curate had to think.

"At least," he said at length, "you could confess the wrong, and ask
forgiveness."

"But if that also were impossible," said Helen, shuddering inwardly
to find how near she drew to the edge of the awful fact.

Again the curate took time to reply.

"I am endeavouring to answer your questions as well as I can," he
said; "but it is hard to deal with generalities. You see how
useless, for that very reason, my answers have as yet been! Still I
have something more to say, and hesitate only because it may imply
more confidence than I dare profess, and of all things I dread
untruth. But I am honest in this much at least, that I desire with
true heart to find a God who will acknowledge me as his creature and
make me his child, and if there be any God I am nearly certain he
will do so; for surely there cannot be any other kind of God than
the Father of Jesus Christ! In the strength of this much of
conscious truth I venture to say--that no crime can be committed
against a creature without being committed also against the creator
of that creature; therefore surely the first step for anyone who has
committed such a crime must be to humble himself before God, confess
the sin, and ask forgiveness and cleansing. If there is anything in
religion at all it must rest upon an actual individual communication
between God and the creature he has made; and if God heard the man's
prayer and forgave him, then the man would certainly know it in his
heart and be consoled--perhaps by the gift of humility."

"Then you think confession to God is all that is required?"

"If there be no one else wronged to whom confession can be made. If
the case were mine--and sometimes I much fear that in taking holy
orders I have grievously sinned--I should then do just as I have
done with regard to that--cry to the living power which I think
originated me, to set the matter right for me."

"But if it could not be set right?"

"Then to forgive and console me."

"Alas! alas! that he will not hear of. He would rather be punished
than consoled. I fear for his brain. But indeed that might be well."

She had gone much farther than she had intended; but the more
doubtful help became, the more she was driven by the agony of a
perishing hope to search the heart of Wingfold.

Again the curate pondered.

"Are you sure," he said at length, "that the person of whom you
speak is not neglecting something he ought to do--something he knows
perhaps?"

He had come back to the same with which he started.

Through her veil he saw her turn deadly white. Ever since Leopold
said the word JURY, a ghastly fear had haunted Helen. She pressed
her hand on her heart and made no answer.

"I speak from experience," the curate went on--"from what else could
I speak? I know that so long as we hang back from doing what
conscience urges, there is no peace for us. I will not say our
prayers are not heard, for Mr. Polwarth has taught me that the most
precious answer prayer can have, lies in the growing strength of the
impulse towards the dreaded duty, and in the ever sharper stings of
the conscience. I think I asked already whether there were no
relatives to whom reparation could be made?"

"Yes, yes," gasped Helen;" and I told you reparation was
impossible."

Her voice had sunk almost to a groan.

"But at least confession--" said Wingfold---and started from his
seat.



CHAPTER XX.

INTERCESSION.



A stifled cry had interrupted him. Helen was pressing her
handkerchief to her mouth. She rose and ran from him. Wingfold stood
alarmed and irresolute. She had not gone many steps, however, when
her pace slackened, her knees gave way, and she dropped senseless on
the grass. Wingfold ran to the house for water. Rachel hastened to
her assistance, and Polwarth followed. It was some time before they
succeeded in reviving her.

When at length the colour began to return a little to her cheek,
Polwarth dropped on his knees at her feet. Wingfold in his
ministrations was already kneeling on one side of her, and Rachel
now kneeled on the other. Then Polwarth said, in his low and husky,
yet not altogether unmelodious voice,

"Life eternal, this lady of thine hath a sore heart and we cannot
help her. Thou art Help, O mighty Love. They who know thee best
rejoice in thee most. As thy sun that shines over our heads, as thy
air that flows into our bodies, thou art above, around, and in us;
thou art in her heart: Oh speak to her there; let her know thy will,
and give her strength to do it, O Father of Jesus Christ! Amen."

When Helen opened her eyes, she saw only the dark leaves of an
arbutus over her, and knew nothing beyond a sense of utter misery
and weakness, with an impulse to rise and run. With an effort she
moved her head a little, and then she saw the three kneeling forms,
the clergyman with bowed head, and the two dwarfs with shining
upturned faces: she thought she was dead and they were kneeling
about her corpse. Her head dropped with a weary sigh of relief, she
lay passive, and heard the dwarf's prayer. Then she knew that she
was not dead, and the disappointment was bitter. But she thought of
Leopold, and was consoled. After a few minutes of quiet, they helped
her into the house, and laid her on a sofa in the parlour.

"Don't be frightened, dear lady," said the little woman; "nobody
shall come near you. We will watch you as if you were the queen. I
am going to get some tea for you."

But the moment she left the room, Helen got up. She could not endure
a moment longer in the place. There was a demon at her brother's
ear, whispering to him to confess, to rid himself of his torture by
the aid of the law: she must rush home and drive him away. She took
her hat in her hand, opened the door softly, and ere Rachel could
say a word, had flitted through the kitchen, and was amongst the
trees on the opposite side of the road. Rachel ran to the garden to
her uncle and Wingfold. They looked at each other for a moment in
silence.

"I will follow her," said Wingfold. "She may faint again. If she
does I shall whistle."

He followed, and kept her in sight until she was safe in her aunt's
garden.

"What IS to be done?" he said, returning in great trouble. "I do not
think I made any blunder, but there she is gone in tenfold misery! I
wish I could tell you what passed, but that of course I cannot."

"Of course not," returned Polwarth. "But the fact of her leaving yon
so is no sign that you said the wrong thing,--rather the contrary.
When people seek advice, it is too often in the hope of finding the
adviser side with their second familiar self, instead of their awful
first self, of which they know so little. Do not be anxious. You
have done your best. Wait for what will come next."



CHAPTER XXI.

HELEN ALONE.



Helen tottered to a little summer-house in the garden, which had
been her best retreat since she had given her room to her brother,
and there seated herself to regain breath and composure ere she went
to him. She had sought the door of Paradise, and the door of hell
had been opened to her! If the frightful idea which, she did not
doubt, had already suggested itself to Leopold, should now be
encouraged, there was nothing but black madness before her! Her
Poldie on the scaffold! God in heaven! Infinitely rather would she
poison herself and him! Then she remembered how pleased and consoled
he had been when she said something about their dying together, and
that reassured her a little: no, she was certain Leopold would never
yield himself to public shame! But she must take care that foolish,
extravagant curate should not come near him. There was no knowing to
what he might persuade him! Poor Poldie was so easily led by any
show of nobility--anything that looked grand or self-sacrificing!

Helen's only knowledge of guilt came from the pale image of it
lifted above her horizon by the refraction of her sympathy. She did
not know, perhaps never would understand the ghastly horror of
conscious guilt, besides which there is no evil else. Agonies of
injury a man may endure, and, so far from being overwhelmed, rise
above them tenfold a man, who, were he to awake to the self-knowledge
of a crime, would sink into a heap of ruin. Then indeed, if there be
no God, or one that has not an infinite power of setting right that
which has gone wrong with his work, then indeed welcome the faith,
for faith it may then be called, of such as say there is no hereafter!
Helen did not know to what gulfs of personal shame, nay, to what
summits of public execration, a man may be glad to flee for refuge
from the fangs of home-born guilt--if so be there is any refuge to
be found in either. And some kind of refuge there does seem to be.
Strange it is and true that in publicity itself lies some relief
from the gnawing of the worm--as if even a cursing humanity were a
barrier of protection between the torn soul and its crime. It flees
to its kind for shelter from itself. Hence, I imagine, in part, may
the coolness of some criminals be accounted for. Their quietness is
the relief brought by confession--even confession but to their
fellows. Is it that the crime seems then lifted a little from their
shoulders, and its weight shared by the ace?

Helen had hoped that the man who had spoken in public so tenderly,
and at the same time so powerfully, of the saving heart of the
universe, that would have no divisions of pride, no scatterings of
hate, but of many would make one, would in private have spoken yet
sweeter words of hope and consolation, which she might have carried
home in gladness to her sick-souled brother, to comfort and
strengthen him--words of might to allay the burning of the poison
within him, and make him feel that after all there was yet a place
for him in the universe, and that he was no outcast of Gehenna. But
instead of such words of gentle might, like those of the man of whom
he was so fond of talking, he had only spoken drearily of duty,
hinting at a horror that would plunge the whole ancient family into
a hell of dishonour and contempt! It did indeed show what mere
heartless windbags of effete theology those priests were! Skeletons
they were, and no human beings at all!--Her father!--the thought of
him was distraction! Her mother! Oh, if Leopold had had her mother
for his too, instead of the dark-skinned woman with the flashing
eyes, he would never have brought this upon them! It was all his
mother's fault--the fault of her race--and of the horrible drug her
people had taught him to take! And was he to go and confess it, and
be tried for it, and be--? Great God!--And here was the priest
actually counselling what was worse than any suicide!

Suddenly, however, it occurred to her that the curate had had no
knowledge of the facts of the case, and had therefore been compelled
to talk at random. It was impossible he should suspect the crime of
which her brother had been guilty, and therefore could not know the
frightful consequences of such a confession as he had counselled.
Had she not better then tell him all, and so gather from him some
right and reasonable advice for the soothing of the agonies of her
poor broken-winged angel? But alas! what security had she that a man
capable of such priestly sevei'ity and heartlessness--her terrors
made her thus inconsequent--would not himself betray the all but
innocent sufferer to the vengeance of justice so called? No; she
would venture no farther. Sooner would she go to George
Bascombe--from whom she not only could look for no spiritual
comfort, but whose theories were so cruel against culprits of all
sorts! Alas, alas! she was alone! absolutely alone in the great
waste, death-eyed universe!--But for a man to talk so of the
tenderness of Jesus Christ, and then serve her as the curate had
done--it was indeed shameless! HE would never have treated a poor
wretched woman like that!--And as she said thus to herself, again
the words sounded in the ear of her heart: 'COME UNTO ME, ALL YE
THAT LABOUR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST.' Whence
came the voice? From her memory, or from that inner chamber of the
spirit which the one spirit-bearing spirit keeps for his own in
every house that he builds--alas so long in most human houses shut
away from the rest of the rooms and forgotten, or recollected with
uneasiness as a lumber-closet in which lie too many things that had
better not be looked into? But what matter where the voice that had
said them, so long as the words were true, and she might believe
them!--Whatever is true CAN be believed of the true heart.

Ere she knew, Helen was on her knees, with her head on the chair,
yet once more crying to the hearer of cries--possible or impossible
being she knew not in the least, but words reported of him had given
birth to the cry--to help her in her dire need.

Instead of any word, or thought even, coming to her that might be
fancied an answer, she was scared from her knees by an approaching
step---that of the house-keeper come to look for her with the
message from her aunt that Leopold was more restless than usual, not
at all like himself, and she could do nothing with him.



CHAPTER XXII.

A HAUNTED SOUL.



Helen rose and hastened to her brother, with a heart of lead in her
body.

She started when she saw him: some change had passed on him since
the morning! Was that eager look in his eyes a fresh access of the
fever? That glimmer on his countenance, doubtful as the first of the
morning, when the traveller knows not whether the light be in the
sky or only in his brain, did look more like a dawn of his old
healthful radiance than any fresh fire of madness; but at the same
time he appeared more wasted and pinched and death-like than she had
yet seen him. Or was it only in her eyes--was she but reading in his
face the agony she had herself gone through that day?

"Helen, Helen!" he cried as she entered the room, "come here, close
to me."

She hastened to him, sat down on the bedside, took his hand, and
looked as cheerfully as she could, yet it was but the more woefully,
in his face.

"Helen!" he said again, and he spoke with a strange expression in
his voice, for it seemed that of hope, "I have been thinking all day
of what you told me on Sunday."

"What was that, Poldie?" asked Helen with a pang of fear.

"Why, those words of course--what else? You sang them to me
afterwards, you know. Helen, I should like to see Mr. Wingfold.
Don't you think he might be able to do something?"

"What sort of thing, Poldie?" she faltered, growing sick at
heart.--Was this what came of praying! she thought bitterly.

"Something or other--I don't know what exactly," returned
Leopold.--"Oh Helen!" he broke out with a cry, stifled by the
caution that had grown habitual to both of them, "is there no help
of any kind anywhere? Surely Mr. Wingfold could tell me
something--comfort me somehow, if I were to tell him all about it! I
could trust the man that said such things as those you told me. That
I could!--Oh! I wish I hadn't run away, but had let them take me and
hang me!"

Helen felt herself grow white. She turned away, and pretended to
search for something she had dropped.

"I don't think he would be of the slightest use to you," she said,
still stooping.

And she felt like a devil dragging the soul of her brother to hell.
But that was a foolish fancy, and must be resisted!

"Not if I told him everything?" Leopold hissed from between his
teeth in the struggle to keep down a shriek.

"No, not if you told him everything," she answered, and felt like a
judge condemning him to death.

"What is he there for then?" said Leopold indignantly, and turned
his face to the wall and moaned.

Helen had not yet thought of asking herself whether her love to her
brother was all clear love, and nowise mingled with selfishness--
whether in the fresh horror that day poured into the cup that had
seemed already running over, it was of her brother only she thought,
or whether threatened shame to herself had not a part in her misery.
But, as far as she was aware, she was quite honest in saying that
the curate could not comfort him--for what attempt even had he made
to comfort her? What had he done but utter common-places and truisms
about duty? And who could tell but--indeed was she not certain that
such a man, bringing the artillery of his fanaticism to bear upon
her poor boy's wild enthusiastic temperament, would speedily
persuade him to make a reality of that terrible thing he had already
thought of, that hideously impossible possibility which she dared
not even allow to present itself before her imagination? So he lay
and moaned, and she sat crushed and speechless with despairing
misery.

All at once Leopold sat straight up, his eyes fixed and flaming, his
face white: he looked like a corpse possessed by a spirit of fear
and horror. Helen's heart swelled into her throat, the muscles of
her face contracted with irresistible rigor, and she felt it grow
exactly like his, while with wide eyes she stared at him, and he
stared at something which lest she also should see, she dared not
turn her head. Surely, she thought afterwards, she must have been
that moment in the presence of something unearthly! Her physical
being was wrenched from her control, and she must simply sit and
wait until the power or influence, whichever it might be, should
pass away. How long it was ere it relaxed its hold she could not
tell; it could not have been long, she thought. Suddenly the light
sank from Leopold's eyes, his muscles relaxed, he fell back
motionless, apparently senseless, on the pillow, and she thought he
was dead. The same moment she was free; the horror had departed from
her own atmosphere too, and she made haste to restore him. But in
all she did for him, she felt like the executioner who gives
restoratives to the wretch that has fainted on the rack or the
wheel. What right had SHE, she thought, to multiply to him his
moments of torture? If the cruel power that had created him for such
misery, whoever, whatever, wherever he might be, chose thus to
torture him, was she, his only friend, out of the selfish affection
he had planted in her, to lend herself his tool? Yet she hesitated
not a single moment in her ministrations.

There is so much passes in us of which our consciousness takes no
grasp,--or but with such a flitting touch as scarcely to hand it
over to the memory--that I feel encouraged to doubt whether ever
there was a man absolutely without hope. That there have been, alas,
are many, who are aware of no ground of hope, nay even who feel no
glimmer in them of anything they can call hope, I know; but I think
in them all is an underlying unconscious hope. I think that not one
in all the world has more than a shadowy notion of what hopelessness
means. Perhaps utter hopelessness is the outer darkness.

At length Leopold opened his eyes, gave a terrified glance around,
held out his arms to her, and drew her down upon his face.

"I saw her!" he said, in a voice that sounded as if it came from the
grave, and she heard it in her heart.

"Nonsense, dear Poldie! it was all fancy--nothing more," she
returned, in a voice almost as hollow as his; and the lightness of
the words uttered in such a tone jarred dismayfully on her own ear.

"Fancy!" he repeated; "I know what fancy is as well as any man or
woman born: THAT was no fancy. She stood there, by the wardrobe--in
the same dress!--her face as white as her dress! And--listen!--I
will tell YOU--I will soon satisfy you it COULD be no fancy."--Here
he pushed her from him and looked straight in her eyes.--"I saw her
back reflected in the mirror of the wardrobe-door, and"--here the
fixed look of horror threatened to return upon his face, but he went
on--"listen,--there was a worm crawling on it, over her lovely white
shoulder! Ugh! I saw it in the mirror!"

His voice had risen to a strangled shriek, his face was distorted,
and he shook like a child on the point of yelling aloud in an agony
of fear. Helen clasped his face between her hands, and gathering
courage from despair, if indeed that be a possible source of
courage, and it is not gathered rather from the hidden hope of which
I speak, and the love that will cleave and not forsake, she set her
teeth, and said:

"Let her come then, Poldie! I am with you, and I defy her! She shall
know that a sister's love is stronger than the hate of a jilt--even
if you did kill her. Before God, Poldie, I would after all rather be
you than she. Say what you will, she had herself to blame, and I
don't doubt did twenty worse things than you did when you killed
her."

But Leopold seemed not to hear a word she said, and lay with his
face to the wall.

At length he turned his head suddenly, and said,

"Helen, if you don't let me see Mr. Wingfold, I shall go mad, and
then everything will come out."



CHAPTER XXIII.

COMPELLED CONFIDENCE.



Helen flew to the dressing-room to hide her dismay, and there cast
herself on the bed. The gray Fate above, or the awful Demo-gorgon
beneath, would have its way! Whether it was a living Will or but the
shadow of the events it seemed to order, it was too much for her.
She had no choice but yield. She rose and returned to her brother.

"I am going to find Mr. Wingfold," she said in a hoarse voice, as
she took her hat.

"Don't be long then, Helen," returned Leopold. "I can't bear you out
of my sight. And don't let aunt come into the room. SHE might come
again, you know, and then all would be out.--Bring him with you,
Helen."

"I will," answered Helen, and went.

The curate might have returned: she would seek him first at his
lodging. She cared nothing about appearances now.

It was a dull afternoon. Clouds had gathered, and the wind was
chilly. It seemed to blow out of the church, which stood up cold and
gray against the sky, filling the end of the street. What a
wretched, horrible world it was! She approached the church, and
entered the churchyard from which it rose like a rock from the Dead
Sea--a type of the true church, around whose walls lie the dead
bodies of the old selves left behind by those who enter. Helen would
have envied the dead, who lay so still under its waves; but, alas!
if Leopold was right, they but roamed elsewhere in their trouble,
and were no better for dying.

She hurried across, and reached the house; but Mr. Wingfold had not
yet returned, and she hurried back across it again, to tell Leopold
that she must go farther to find him.

The poor youth was already more composed. What will not the vaguest
hope sometimes do for a man! Helen told him she had seen the curate
in the park, when she was out in the morning, and he might be there
still, or she might meet him coming back. Leopold only begged her to
make haste. She took the road to the lodge.

She did not meet him, and it was with intense repugnance that she
approached the gate.

"Is Mr. Wingfold here?" she asked of Rachel, as if she had never
spoken to her before; and Rachel, turning paler at the sight of her,
answered that he was in the garden with her uncle, and went to call
him.

The moment he appeared she said, in a tone rendered by conflicting
emotions inexplicable, and sounding almost rude,

"Will you come to my brother? He is very ill, and wants to see you."

"Certainly," returned Wingfold; "I will go with you at once."

But in his heart he trembled at the thought of being looked to for
consolation and counsel, and that apparently in a case of no
ordinary kind. Most likely he would not know what to say, or how to
behave himself! How different it would be if with all his heart he
believed the grand lovely things recorded in the book of his
profession! Then indeed he might enter the chambers of pain and fear
and guilt with the innocent confidence of a winged angel of comfort
and healing! But now the eyes of his understanding were blinded with
the IFS and BUTS that flew swarming like black muscae wherever they
turned. Still he would--nay, he must go and do his best.

They walked across the park to reach the house by the garden, and
for some distance they walked in silence. At length Helen said:

"You must not encourage my brother to talk much, if you please; and
you must not mind what he says; he has had brain-fever, and
sometimes talks strangely. But on the other hand, if he fancy you
don't believe him, it will drive him wild--so you must take care--
please."

Her voice was like that of a soul trying to speak with unproved
lips.

"Miss Lingard," said Wingfold, slowly and quietly--and if his voice
trembled, he only was aware of it, "I cannot see your face,
therefore you must pardon me if I ask you--are you quite honest with
me?"

Helen's first feeling was anger. She held her peace for a time. Then
she said,

"So, Mr. Wingfold!--that is the way you help the helpless!"

"How can any man help without knowing what has to be helped?"
returned the curate. "The very being of his help depends upon his
knowing the truth. It is very plain you do not trust me, and equally
impossible I should be of any service as long as the case is such."

Again Helen held her peace. Resentment and dislike towards himself
combined with terror of his anticipated counsel to render her
speechless.

Her silence lasted so long that Wingfold came to the resolution of
making a venture that had occurred to him more than once that
morning. Had he not been convinced that a soul was in dire misery,
he would not have had recourse to the seeming cruelty.

"Would this help to satisfy you that, whatever my advice may be
worth, at least my discretion may be trusted?" he said.

They were at the moment passing through a little thicket in the
park, where nobody could see them, and as he spoke, he took the
knife-sheath from his pocket, and held it out to her.

She started like a young horse at something dead: she had never seen
it, but the shape had an association. She paled, retreated a step,
with a drawing back of her head and neck and a spreading of her
nostrils, stared for a moment, first at the sheath, then at the
curate, gave a little moan, bit her under lip hard, held out her
hand, but as if she were afraid to touch the thing, and said:

"What is it? Where did you find it?"

She would have taken it, but Wingfold held it fast.

"Give it me," she said imperatively. "It is mine. I lost it."

"There is something dark on the lining of it," said the curate, and
looked straight into her eyes.

She let go her hold. But almost the same moment she snatched the
sheath out of his hand and held it to her bosom, while her look of
terror changed into one of defiance. Wingfold made no attempt to
recover it. She put it in her pocket, and drew herself up.

"What do you mean?" she said, in a voice that was hard yet trembled.

She felt like one that sees the vultures gathering above him, and
lifts a moveable finger in defence. Then with sudden haughtiness
both of gesture and word:

"You have been acting the spy, sir!"

"No," returned the curate quietly. "The sheath was committed to my
care by one whom certain facts that had come to his knowledge--
certain words he had overheard--"

He paused. She shook visibly, but still would hold what ground might
yet be left her.

"Why did you not give it me before?" she asked.

"In the public street, or in your aunt's presence?"

"You are cruel!" she panted. Her strength was going. "What do you
know?"

"Nothing so well as that I want to serve you, and you may trust me."

"What do you mean to do?"

"My best to help you and your brother."

"But to what end?"

"To any end that is right."

"But how? What would you tell him to do?"

"You must help me to discover what he ought to do."

"Not--" she cried, clasping her hands and dropping on her knees
before him, "--you WILL not tell him to give himself up? Promise me
you will not, and I will tell you everything. He shall do anything
you please but that! Anything but that!"

Wingfold's heart was sore at sight of her agony. He would have
raised her with soothing words of sympathy and assurance, but still
she cried, "Promise me you will not make him give himself up."

"I dare not promise anything." he said. "I MUST do what I may see to
be right. Believe me, I have no wish to force myself into your
confidence, but you have let me see that you are in great trouble
and in need of help, and I should be unfaithful to my calling if I
did not do my best to make you trust me."

A pause followed. Helen rose despairingly, and they resumed their
walk. Just as they reached the door in the fence which would let
them out upon the meadow in sight of the Manor-house, she turned to
him and said,

"I will trust you, Mr. Wingfold. I mean, I will take you to my
brother, and he shall do as he thinks proper."

They passed out and walked across the meadow in silence. In the
passage under the fence, as she turned from closing the door behind
them, she stood and pressed her hand to her side.

"Oh! Mr. Wingfold," she cried, "my heart will break! He has no one
but me! No one but me to be mother and sister and all to him! He is
NOT wicked--my poor darling!"

She caught the curate by the arm with a grasp which left its mark
behind it, and gazed appealingly into his face: in the dim tomb-like
light, her wide-strained eyes, white agonized countenance, and
trembling roseless lips made her look like one called back from
death "to speak of horrors."

"Save him from madness," she said, in forced and unnatural
utterance. "Save him from the remorse gnawing at his heart. But do
not, DO not counsel him to give himself up."

"Would it not be better you should tell me about it," said the
curate, "and save him the pain and excitement?"

"I will do so, if he wishes it, not otherwise. Come; we must not
stay longer. He can hardly bear me out of his sight. I will leave
you for one moment in the library, and then come to you. If you
should see my aunt, not a word of all this, please. All she knows is
that he has had brain-fever, and is recovering only very slowly. I
have never given her even a hint of anything worse. Indeed,
honestly, Mr. Wingfold, I am not at all certain he did do what he
will tell you. But there is his misery all the same. Do have pity on
us, and don't be hard upon the poor boy. He is but a boy--only
twenty."

"May God be to me as I am to him!" said Wingfold solemnly.

Helen withdrew her entreating eyes, and let go his arm. They went up
into the garden and into the house.

Afterwards, Wingfold was astonished at his own calmness and decision
in taking upon him--almost, as it were, dragging to him--this
relation with Helen and her brother. But he had felt that not to do
so would be to abandon Helen to her grief, and that for her sake he
must not hesitate to encounter whatever might have to be encountered
in doing so.

Helen left him in the library, as she had said, and there he waited
her return in a kind of stupor, unable to think, and feeling as if
he were lost in a strange and anxious dream.



CHAPTER XXIV.

WILLING CONFIDENCE.



"Come," said Helen, re-entering, and the curate rose and followed
her.

The moment he turned the corner of the bed and saw the face on the
pillow, he knew in his soul that Helen was right, and that that was
no wicked youth who lay before him--one, however, who might well
have been passion-driven. There was the dark complexion and the
great soft yet wild eyes that came of tropical blood. Had not Helen
so plainly spoken of her brother, however, he would have thought he
saw before him a woman. The worn, troubled, appealing light that
overflowed rather than shone from his eyes, went straight to the
curate's heart.

Wingfold had had a brother, the only being in the world he had ever
loved tenderly; he had died young, and a thin film of ice had since
gathered over the well of his affections; but now suddenly this ice
broke and vanished, and his heart yearned over the suffering youth.
He had himself been crying to God, not seldom in sore trouble, and
now, ere, as it seemed, he had himself been heard, here was a sad
brother crying to him for help. Nor was this all; the reading of the
gospel story had roused in his heart a strange yet most natural
longing after the face of that man of whom he read such lovely
things, and thence, unknown to himself, had come a reverence and a
love for his kind, which now first sprang awake to his consciousness
in the feeling that drew him towards Leopold.

Softly he approached the bed, his face full of tenderness and strong
pity. The lad, weak with protracted illness and mental torture, gave
one look in his face, and stretched out both his arms to him. How
could the curate give him but a hand? He put his arms round him as
if he had been a child.

"I knew you would come," sobbed Lingard.

"What else should I do but come?" returned Wingfold.

"I have seen you somewhere before," said Lingard--"in one of my
dreams, I suppose."

Then, sinking his voice to a whisper, he added:

"Do you know you came in close behind HER? She looked round and saw
you, and vanished!"

Wingfold did not even try to guess at his meaning.

"Hush, my dear fellow!" he said; "I must not let you talk wildly, or
the doctor might forbid my seeing you."

"I am not talking a bit wildly," returned Leopold. "I am as quiet as
a mountain-top. Ah! when I AM wild--if you saw me then, you might
say so!"

Wingfold sat down on the side of the bed, and took the thin, hot
hand next him in his own firm, cool one.

"Come now," he said, "tell me all about it. Or shall your sister
tell me?--Come here, please, Miss Lingard."

"No, no!" cried Leopold hastily; "I will tell you myself. My poor
sister could not bear to tell it you. It would kill her.--But how am
I to know you will not get up and walk out the moment you have a
glimpse of what is coming?"

"I would as soon leave a child burning in the fire, and go out and
shut the door," said Wingfold.

"You can go now, Helen," said Lingard very quietly. "Why should you
be tortured over again? You needn't mind leaving me. Mr. Wingfold
will take care of me."

Helen left the room, with one anxious look at her brother as she
went.

Without a moment's further delay, Leopold began, and in wonderfully
direct and unbroken narrative, told the sad evil tale as he had
formerly told it to his sister, only more consecutively and quietly.
Possibly his anxiety as to how the listener would receive it,
served, by dividing him between two emotions, to keep the reuttered
tale from overpowering him with freshened vividness. All the time,
he kept watching Wingfold's face, the expressions of which the
curate felt those eyes were reading like a book.

He was so well prepared, however, that no expression of surprise, no
reflex of its ghastfulness met Leopold's gaze, and he went on to the
end without a pause even. When he had finished, both sat silent,
looking in each other's eyes, Wingfold's beaming with compassion,
and Lingard's glimmering with doubtful, anxious inquiry and appeal.
At length Wingfold said:

"And what do you think I can do for you?"

"I don't know. I thought you could tell me something. I cannot live
like this! If I had but thought before I did it, and killed myself
instead of her! It would have done so much better! Of course I
should be in hell now, but that would be all right, and this is all
wrong. I have no right to be lying here and Emmeline in her grave. I
know I deserve to be miserable for ever and ever, and I don't want
not to be miserable--that is all right--but there is something in
this wretchedness that I cannot bear. Tell me something to make me
able to endure my misery. That is what you can do for me. I don't
want to go mad. And what is worst of all, I have made my sister
miserable, and I can't bear to see it. She is wasting away with it.
And besides I fancy she loves George Bascombe--and who would marry
the sister of a murderer? And now she has begun to come to me
again--in the daytime--I mean Emmeline!--or I have begun to see her
again--I don't know which;--perhaps she is always there, only I
don't always see her--and it don't much matter which. Only if other
people were to see her!--While she is there nothing could persuade
me I do not see her, but afterwards I am not so sure that I did. And
at night I keep dreaming the horrible thing over and over again; and
the agony is to think I shall never get rid of it, and never never
feel clean again. To be for ever and ever a murderer and people not
know it, is more than I CAN bear."



CHAPTER XXV.

THE CURATE'S COUNSEL.



Not seeing yet what he had to say, but knowing that scintillation
the smallest is light, the curate let the talk take its natural
course, and said the next thing that came to him.

"How do you feel when you think that you may yet be found out?" he
asked.

"At first I was more afraid of that than of anything else. Then
after that danger seemed past, I was afraid of the life to come.
That fear left me next, and now it is the thing itself that is
always haunting me. I often wish they would come and take me, and
deliver me from myself. It would be a comfort to have it all known,
and never need to start again. I think I could even bear to see her
in the prison. If it would annihilate the deed, or bring Emmeline
back, I cannot tell you how gladly I would be hanged. I would,
indeed, Mr. Wingfold. I I hope you will believe me, though I don't
deserve it."

"I do believe you," said the curate, and a silence followed.

"There is but one thing I can say with confidence at this moment,"
he resumed: "it is, that I am your friend, and will stand by you.
But the first part of friendship sometimes is to confess poverty,
and I want to tell you that, of the very things concerning which I
ought to know most, I knew least. I have but lately begun to feel
after God, and I dare not say that I have found him, but I think I
know now where to find him. And I do think, if we could find him,
then we should find help. All I can do for you now is only to be
near you, and talk to you, and pray to God for you, that so together
we may wait for what light may come.--Does anything ever look to
you as if it would make you feel better?"

"I have no right to feel better or take comfort from anything."

"I am not sure about that.--Do you feel any better for having me
come to see you?"

"Oh, yes, indeed I do!"

"Well, there is no wrong in that, is there?"

"I don't know. It seems a sneaking kind of thing: she has got none
of it. My sister makes excuses for me, but the moment I begin to
listen to them I only feel the more horrid."

"I have said nothing of that kind to you."

"No, sir."

"And yet you like to have me here?"

"Yes, indeed, sir," he answered, earnestly.

"And it does not make you think less of your crime?"

"No. It makes me feel it worse than ever to see you sitting there, a
clean, strong, innocent man, and think what I might have been."

"Then the comfort you get from me does you no harm, at least. If I
were to find my company made you think with less hatred of your
crime, I should go away that instant."

"Thank you, sir," said Leopold humbly. "Oh, sir!" he resumed after a
little silence, "--to think that never more to all eternity shall I
be able to think of myself as I used to think!"

"Perhaps you used to think too much of yourself," returned the
curate. "For the greatest fool and rascal in creation there is yet a
worse condition, and that is--not to know it, but think himself a
respectable man. As the event proves, though you would doubtless
have laughed at the idea, you were then capable of committing a
murder. I have come to see--at least I think I have--that except a
man has God dwelling in him, he may be, or may become, capable of
any crime within the compass of human nature."

"I don't know anything about God," said Leopold. "I daresay I
thought I did before this happened--before I did it, I mean," he
added in correction,"--but I know now that I don't, and never did."

"Ah, Leopold!" said the curate, "think, if my coming to you comforts
you, what would it be to have him who made you always with you!"

"Where would be the good? I daresay he might forgive me, if I were
to do this and that, but where would be the good of it? It would not
take the thing off me one bit."

"Ah! now," said Wingfold, "I fear you are thinking a little about
your own disgrace and not only of the bad you have done. Why should
you not be ashamed? Why would you have the shame taken off you? Nay;
you must humbly consent to bear it. Perhaps your shame is the hand
of love washing the defilement from off you. Let us keep our shame,
and be made clean from the filth!"

"I don't know that I understand you, sir. What do you mean by the
defilement? Is it not to have done the deed that is the defilement?"

"Is it not rather to have that in you, a part, or all but a part of
your being, that makes you capable of doing it? If you had resisted
and conquered, you would have been clean from it; and now, if you
repent and God comes to you, you will yet be clean. Again I say, let
us keep our shame and be made clean! Shame is not defilement, though
a mean pride persuades men so. On the contrary, the man who is
honestly ashamed has begun to be clean."

"But what good would that do to Emmeline? It cannot bring her up
again to the bright world out of the dark grave."

"Emmeline is not in the dark grave."

"Where is she, then?" he said with a ghastly look.

"That I cannot tell. I only know that, if there be a God, she is in
his hands," replied the curate.

The youth gazed on in his face and made no answer. Wingfold saw that
he had been wrong in trying to comfort him with the thought of God
dwelling in him. How was such a poor passionate creature to take
that for a comfort? How was he to understand or prize the idea, who
had his spiritual nature so all undeveloped? He would try another
way.

"Shall I tell you what seems to me sometimes the only one thing I
want to help me out of my difficulties?"

"Yes, please, sir," answered Leopold, as humbly as a child.

"I think sometimes, if I could but see Jesus for one moment--"

"Ah!" cried Leopold, and gave a great sigh.

'YOU would like to see him then, would you?"

"Oh, Mr. Wingfold!"

"What would you say to him if you saw him?"

"I don't know. I would fall down on my face and hold his feet lest
he should go away from me."

"Do you think then he could help you?"

"Yes. He could make Emmeline alive again. He could destroy what I
have done."

"But still, as you say, the crime would remain."

"But, as you say, he could pardon that, and make me that I would
never never sin again."

"So you think the story about Jesus Christ is true?"

"Yes. Don't you?" said Leopold with an amazed, half-frightened look.

"Yes, indeed I do.--Then do you remember what he said to his
disciples as he left them: 'I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS UNTO THE END OF THE
WORLD'?--If that be true, then he can hear you just as well now as
ever he could. And when he was in the world, he said, 'COME UNTO ME
ALL YE THAT LABOUR AND ARE HEAVY-LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST.'
It is rest you want, my poor boy--not deliverance from danger or
shame, but rest--such peace of mind as you had when you were a
child. If he cannot give you that, I know not where or how it is to
be had. Do not waste time in asking yourself how he can do it: that
is for him to understand, not you--until it is done. Ask him to
forgive you and make you clean and set things right for you. If he
will not do it, then he is not the saviour of men, and was wrongly
named Jesus."

The curate rose. Leopold had hid his face. When he looked again he
was gone.



CHAPTER XXVI.

SLEEP.



As Wingfold came out of the room, which was near the stair, Helen
rose from the top of it, where she had been sitting all the time he
had been with her brother. He closed the door gently behind him, and
stepped softly along the landing. A human soul in guilt and agony is
an awful presence, but there was more than that in the hush of the
curate: he felt as if he had left the physician of souls behind him
at the bedside; that a human being lay on the rack of the truth, but
at his head stood one who watched his throes with the throbs of such
a human heart as never beat in any bosom but his own, and the
executioners were angels of light. No wonder if with such a feeling
in his breast Wingfold walked softly, and his face glistened! He was
not aware that the tears stood in his eyes, but Helen saw them.

"You know all!" she faltered.

"I do. Will you let me out by the garden again? I wish to be alone."

She led the way down the stair, and walked with him through the
garden. Wingfold did not speak.

"You don't think very badly of my poor brother, do you, Mr.
Wingfold?" said Helen, meekly.

"It is a terrible fate," he returned. "I think I never saw a
lovelier disposition. I do hope his mind will soon be more composed.
I think he knows where alone he can find rest. I am well aware how
foolish that of which I speak seems to some minds, Miss Lingard; but
when a man is once overwhelmed in his own deeds, when they have
turned into spectres to mock at him, when he loathes himself and
turns with sickness from past, present, and future, I know but one
choice left, and that is between the death your friend Mr. Bascombe
preaches, and the life preached by Jesus, the crucified Jew. Into
the life I hope your brother will enter."

"I am so glad you don't hate him."

"Hate him! Who but a demon could hate him?"

Helen lifted a grateful look from eyes that swam in tears. The
terror of his possible counsel for the moment vanished. He could
never tell him to give himself up!

"But, as I told you, I am a poor scholar in these high matters,"
resumed the curate, "and I want to bring Mr. Polwarth to see him."

"The dwarf!" exclaimed Helen, shuddering at the remembrance of what
she had gone through at the cottage.

"Yes. That man's soul is as grand and beautiful and patient as his
body is insignificant and distorted and troubled. He is the wisest
and best man I have ever known.

"I must ask Leopold," returned Helen, who, the better the man was
represented, felt the more jealous and fearful of the advice he
might give. Her love and her conscience were not yet at one with
each other.

They parted at the door from the garden, and she returned to the
sick-room.

She paused, hesitating to enter. All was still as the grave. She
turned the handle softly and peeped in: could it be that Wingfold's
bearing had communicated to her mind a shadow of the awe with which
he had left the place where perhaps a soul was being born again?
Leopold did not move. Terror laid hold of her heart. She stepped
quickly in, and round the screen to the side of the bed. There, to
her glad surprise, he lay fast asleep, with the tears not yet dried
upon his face. Her heart swelled with some sense unknown before: was
it rudimentary thankfulness to the Father of her spirit?

As she stood gazing with the look of a mother over her sick child,
he lifted his eyelids, and smiled a sad smile.

"When did you come into the room?" he said.

"A minute ago," she answered.

"I did not hear you," he returned.

"No, you were asleep."

"Not I! Mr. Wingfold is only just gone."

"I have let him out on the meadow since."

Leopold stared, looked half alarmed, and then said,

"Did God make me sleep, Helen?"

She did not answer. The light of a new hope in his eye, as if the
dawn had begun at last to break over the dark mountains, was already
reflected from her heart.

"Oh! Helen," he said, "that IS a good fellow, SUCH a good fellow!"

A pang of jealousy, the first she had ever felt, shot to her heart:
she had hitherto, since his trouble, been all in all to her Leopold!
Had the curate been a man she liked, she would not perhaps have
minded it so much.

"You will be able to do without me now," she said sadly. "I never
could understand taking to people at first sight!"

"Some people are made so, I suppose, Helen. I know I took to you at
first sight! I shall never forget the first time I saw you--when I
came to this country a lonely little foreigner,--and you, a great
beautiful lady, for such you seemed to me, though you have told me
since you were only a great gawky girl--I know that could never have
been--you ran to meet me, and took me in your arms, and kissed me. I
was as if I had crossed the sea of death and found paradise in your
bosom! I am not likely to forget you for Mr. Wingfold, good and kind
and strong as he is! Even SHE could not make me forget you, Helen.
But neither you nor I can do without Mr. Wingfold any more, I fancy.
I wish you liked him better!--but you will in time. You see he's not
one to pay young ladies compliments, as I have heard some parsons
do; and he may be a little--no, not unpolished, not that--that's not
what I mean--but unornamental in his manners! Only, you see,--"

"Only, you see, Poldie," interrupted Helen, with a smile, a rare
thing between them, "you know all about him, though you never saw
him before."

"That is true," returned Leopold; "but then he came to me with his
door open, and let me walk in. It doesn't take long to know a man
then. He hasn't got a secret like us, Helen," he added, sadly.

"What did he say to you?"

"Much what he said to you from the pulpit the other day, I should
think."

Then she was right! For all his hardness and want of sympathy, the
curate had yet had regard to her entreaties, and was not going to
put any horrid notions about duty and self-sacrifice into the poor
boy's head!

"He's coming again to-morrow," added Leopold, almost gleefully, "and
then perhaps he will tell me more, and help me on a bit!"

"Did he tell you he wants to bring a friend with him?"

"No."

"I can't see the good of taking more people into our confidence."

"Why should he not do what he thinks best, Helen? You don't
interfere with the doctor--why should you with him? When a man is
going to the bottom as fast as he can, and another comes diving
after him--it isn't for me to say how he is to take hold of me. No,
Helen; when I trust, I trust out and out."

Helen sighed, thinking how ill that had worked with Emmeline.

Ever since George Bascombe had talked about the Polwarths that day
they met him in the park, she had felt a sort of physical horror of
them, as if they were some kind of unclean creature that ought not
to be in existence at all. But when Leopold uttered himself thus,
she felt that the current of events had seized her, and that she
could only submit to be carried along.



CHAPTER XXVII.

DIVINE SERVICE.



The next day the curate called again on Leopold. But Helen happened
to be otherwise engaged for a few minutes, and Mrs. Ramshorn to be
in the sick-room when the servant brought his name. With her
jealousy of Wingfold's teaching, she would not have admitted him,
but Lingard made such loud protest when he heard her say "Not at
home," insisting on seeing him, that she had to give way, and tell
the maid to show him up. She HAD NO NOTION however of leaving him
alone in the room with the invalid: who could tell what absurd and
extravagant ideas he might not put into the boy's head! He might
make him turn monk, or Socinian, or latter-day-saint, for what she
knew! So she sat, blocking up the sole small window in the youth's
dark dwelling that looked eastward, and damming back the tide of the
dawn from his diseased and tormented soul. Little conversation was
therefore possible. Still the face of his new friend was a comfort
to Leopold, and ere he left him they had managed to fix an hour for
next day, when they would not be thus foiled of their talk.

That same afternoon, Wingfold took the draper to see Polwarth.

Rachel was lying on the sofa in the parlour--a poor little heap,
looking more like a grave disturbed by efforts at a resurrection,
than a form informed with humanity. But she was cheerful and
cordial, receiving Mr. Drew and accepted his sympathy most kindly.

"We'll see what God will do for me," she said in answer to a word
from the curate. Her whole bearing, now as always, was that of one
who perfectly trusted a supreme spirit under whose influences lay
even the rugged material of her deformed dwelling.

Polwarth allowed Wingfold to help him in getting tea, and the
conversation, as will be the case where all are in earnest, quickly
found the right channel.

It is not often in real life that such conversations occur.
Generally, in any talk worth calling conversation, every man has
some point to maintain, and his object is to justify his own thesis
and disprove his neighbour's. I will allow that he may primarily
have adopted his thesis because of some sign of truth in it, but his
mode of supporting it is generally such as to block up every cranny
in his soul at which more truth might enter. In the present case,
unusual as it is for so many as three truth-loving men to come thus
together on the face of this planet, here were three simply set on
uttering truth they had seen, and gaining sight of truth as yet
veiled from them.

I shall attempt only a general impression of the result of their
evening's intercourse, partly recording the utterances of Polwarth.

"I have been trying hard to follow you, Mr. Polwarth," said the
draper, after his host had for a while had the talk to himself, "but
I cannot get a hold of your remarks. One moment I think I have got
the end of the clew, and the next find myself all abroad again.
Would you tell me what you mean by divine service, for I think you
must use the phrase in some different sense from what I have been
accustomed to?"

"Ah! I ought to remember," said Polwarth, "that what has grown
familiar to my mind from much solitary thinking, may not at once
show itself to another, when presented in the forms of a foreign
individuality. I ought to have premised that, when I use the phrase,
DIVINE SERVICE, I mean nothing whatever belonging to the church,
or its observances. I mean by it what it ought to mean--the serving
of God--the doing of something for God. Shall I make of the church
in my foolish imaginations a temple of idolatrous worship by
supposing that it is for the sake of supplying some need that God
has, or of gratifying some taste in him, that I there listen to his
word, say prayers to him, and sing his praises? Shall I be such a
dull mule in the presence of the living Truth? Or, to use a homely
simile, shall I be as the good boy of the nursery rhyme, who, seated
in his corner of selfish complacency, regards the eating of his pie
as a virtuous action, enjoys the contemplation of it, and thinks
what a pleasant object he thus makes of himself to his parents?
Shall I, to take a step farther, degrade the sanctity of the closet,
hallowed in the words of Jesus, by shutting its door in the vain
fancy of there doing something that God requires of me as a sacred
OBSERVANCE? Shall I foolishly imagine that to put in exercise the
highest and loveliest, the most entrancing privilege of existence,
that of pouring forth my whole heart into the heart of him who is
ACCOUNTABLE FOR me, who hath glorified me with his own image--in my
soul, gentlemen, sadly disfigured as it is in my body!--shall I say
that THAT is to do anything for God? Was I serving my father when I
ate the dinner he provided for me? Am I serving my God when I eat
his bread and drink his wine?"

"But," said Drew, "is not God pleased that a man should pour out his
soul to him?"

"Yes, doubtless; but what would you think of a child who said, 'I am
very useful to my father, for when I ask him for anything, or tell
him I love him, it gives him--oh, such pleasure!'?"

"I should say he was an unendurable prig. Better he had to be
whipped for stealing!" said the curate.

"There would be more hope of his future," returned Polwarth. "--Is
the child," he continued, "who sits by his father's knee and looks
up into his father's face, SERVING that father, because the heart of
the father delights to look down upon his child? And shall the
moment of my deepest repose and bliss, the moment when I serve
myself with the very life of the universe, be called a serving of my
God? It is communion with God; he holds it with me, else never could
I hold it with him. I am as the foam-froth upon his infinite ocean,
but of the water of the ocean is the bubble on its waves."

Not the eyes only, but the whole face of the man, which had grown of
a pure, semi-transparent whiteness, appeared to Wingfold to emit
light.

"When my child would serve me," he went on," he spies out some need
I have, springs from his seat at my knee, finds that which will meet
my necessity, and is my eager, happy servant, of consequence in his
own eyes inasmuch as he has done something for his father. His seat
by my knee is love, delight, well-being, peace--not service, however
pleasing in my eyes.--'Why do you seat yourself at my knee, my son?'
'To please you, father.' 'Nay then, my son! go from me, and come
again when it shall be to please thyself.'--'Why do you cling to my
chair, my daughter? 'Because I want to be near you, father. It makes
me so happy!' 'Come nearer still--come to my bosom, my child, and be
yet happier.'--Talk not of public worship as divine service; it is a
mockery. Search the prophets and you will find the observances,
fasts and sacrifices and solemn feasts, of the temple by them
regarded with loathing and scorn, just because by the people they
were regarded as DIVINE SERVICE."

"But," said Mr. Drew, while Wingfold turned towards him with some
anxiety lest he should break the mood of the little prophet, "I
can't help thinking I have you! for how are poor creatures like
us--weak, blundering creatures, sometimes most awkward when
best-intentioned--how are we to minister to a perfect God--perfect
in wisdom, strength, and everything--of whom Paul says that he is
not worshipped with men's hands as though he needed anything? I
cannot help thinking that you are fighting merely with a word.
Certainly, if the phrase ever was used in that sense, there is no
meaning of the kind attached to it now: it stands merely for the
forms of public worship."

"Were there no such thing as Divine Service in the true sense of the
word, then, indeed it would scarcely be worth while to quarrel with
its misapplication. But I assert that true and genuine service may
be rendered to the living God; and, for the development of the
divine nature in man, it is necessary that he should do something
for God. Nor is it hard to discover how; for God is in every
creature that he has made, and in their needs he is needy, and in
all their afflictions he is afflicted. Therefore Jesus says that
whatever is done to one of his little ones is done to him. And if
the soul of a man be the temple of the Spirit, then is the place of
that man's labour, his shop, his counting-house, his laboratory, the
temple of Jesus Christ, where the spirit of the man is incarnate in
work.--Mr. Drew!"--Here the gate-keeper stood up, and held out both
his hands, palms upward, towards the draper on the other side of the
table.--"Mr. Drew! your shop is the temple of your service where the
Lord Christ, the only image of the Father is, or ought to be
throned; your counter is, or ought to be his altar; and everything
thereon laid, with intent of doing as well as you can for your
neighbour, in the name of THE man Christ Jesus, is a true sacrifice
offered to Him, a service done to the eternal creating Love of the
universe."

The little prophet's head as he stood, did not reach the level of
the draper's as he sat, but at this Drew dropped his head on his
hands upon the table, as if bowed down by a weight of thought and
feeling and worship.

"I say not," Polwarth went on, "that so doing you will grow a rich
man, but I say that so doing you will be saved from growing too
rich, and that you will be a fellow-worker with God for the
salvation of his world."

"I must live; I cannot give my goods away!" murmured Mr. Drew,
thinkingly, as one that sought enlightenment.

"That would be to go direct against the order of his world, "said
Polwarth." No; a harder task is yours, Mr. Drew--to make your
business a gain to you, and at the same time to be not only what is
commonly counted just, but interested in, and careful of, and caring
for your neighbour, as a servant of the God of bounty who giveth to
all men liberally. Your calling is to do the best for your neighbour
that you reasonably can."

"But who is to fix what is reasonable?" asked Drew.

"The man himself, thinking in the presence of Jesus Christ. There is
a holy moderation which is of God."

"There won't be many fortunes--great fortunes--made after that rule,
Mr. Polwarth."

"Very few."

"Then do you say that no great fortunes have been righteously made?"

"If RIGHTEOUSLY means AFTER THE FASHION OF JESUS CHRIST.--But I will
not judge: that is for the God-enlightened conscience of the man
himself to do--not for his neighbour's. Why should I be judged by
another man's conscience?--But you see, Mr. Drew,--and this is what
I was driving at--that you have it in your power to SERVE God,
through the needs of his children, all the working day, from morning
to night, so long as there is a customer in your shop."

"I do think you are right, sir," said the linen-draper. "I had a
glimpse of the same thing the other night myself. And yet it seems
as if you spoke of a purely ideal state--one that could not be
realised in this world."

"Purely ideal or not, one thing is certain: it will never be reached
by one who is so indifferent to it as to believe it impossible.
Whether it may be reached in this world or not, that is a question
of NO consequence; whether a man has begun to REACH AFTER it, is of
the utmost awfulness of import. And should it be ideal, which I
doubt, what else than the ideal have the followers of the ideal man
to do with?"

"Can a man reach anything ideal before he has God dwelling in
him--filling every cranny of his soul?" asked the curate with
shining eyes.

"Nothing, I do most solemnly believe," answered Polwarth. "It weighs
on me heavily sometimes," he resumed, after a pause, "to think how
far all but a few are from being able even to entertain the idea of
the indwelling in them of the original power of their life. True,
God is in every man, else how could he live the life he does live?
but that life God keeps alive for the hour when he shall inform the
will, the aspiration, the imagination of the man. When the man
throws wide his door to the Father of his spirit, when his
individual being is thus supplemented--to use a poor miserable
word--with the individuality that originated it, then is the man a
whole, healthy, complete existence. Then indeed, and then only, will
he do no wrong, think no wrong, love perfectly, and be right merry.
Then will he scarce think of praying, because God is in every
thought and enters anew with every sensation. Then will he forgive,
and endure, and pour out his soul for the beloved who yet grope
their way in doubt and passion. Then every man will be dear and
precious to him, even the worst, for in him also lies an unknown
yearning after the same peace wherein he rests and loves."

He sat down suddenly, and a deep silence filled the room.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

A SHOP IN HEAVEN.



"Uncle," said Rachel, "may I read your visions of the shops in
heaven?"

"Oh no, Rachel. You are not able to read to-night," said her uncle
deprecatingly.

"I think I am, uncle. I should like to try. It will let the
gentlemen see what you WOULD think an ideal state of things.--It is
something, Mr. Wingfold, my uncle once dictated to me, and I wrote
down just as he said it. He can always do better dictating than
writing, but this time he was so ill with asthma that he could not
talk much faster than I could write; and yet to be so ill I never
saw him show so little suffering; his thinking seemed to make him
forget it.--Mayn't I read it, uncle? I know the gentlemen would
like to hear it."

"That we should," said both men at once.

"I will fetch it you then," said Polwarth, "if you will tell me
where to find it."

Rachel gave him the needful directions, and presently he brought a
few sheets of paper, and handed them to her.

"This is no dream, Mr. Wingfold," he said. "It is something I
thought fairly out before I began to dictate it. But the only fit
form I could find for it was that of a vision--like the Vision of
Mirza, you know.--Now read, Rachel, and I will hold my tongue."

After a little arranging of the sheets, Rachel began. She read not
without difficulty, but her pleasure in what she read helped her
through.

"'And now, said my guide to me, I will bring thee to a city of the
righteous, and show thee how they buy and sell in this the kingdom
of heaven. So we journeyed a day and another day and half a day, and
I was weary ere we arrived thither. But when I saw the loveliness of
the place, and drew in the healing air thereof, my weariness
vanished as a dream of the night, and I said, IT IS WELL.--I may not
now speak of the houses and the dress and the customs of the
dwellers therein, save what may belong to the buying and selling of
which I have spoken. Gladly would I tell of the streams that went,
some noiselessly gliding, others gurgling, some sweeping, some
rushing and roaring, through every street, all issuing from one
right plenteous fountain in the middle of the city, so that the ear
was for ever filled with the sound of many waters all the day,
ceasing when the night came, that silence might have its perfect
work upon the soul. Gladly too would I tell of the trees and flowers
and grass that grew in every street along the banks of the rivers.
But I must withhold.

"'After I had, I know not for how long, refreshed my soul with what
it was thus given, me to enjoy,--for in all that country there is no
such thing as haste, no darting from one thing to another, but a
calm eternal progress in which unto the day the good thereof is
sufficient--one great noon-day, my conductor led me into a large
place, such as we would call a shop here, although the arrangements
were different, and an air of stateliness dwelt in and around the
house. It was filled with the loveliest silken and woollen stuffs,
of all kinds and colours, a thousand delights to the eye--and to the
thought also, for here was endless harmony, and no discord.

"'I stood in the midst, and my guide stood by me in silence; for all
the time I was in the country, he seldom spoke to me save when first
I asked of him, and yet he never showed any weariness, and often a
half-smile would dwell for a moment upon his countenance.

"'And first I watched the faces of them that sold; and I could read
therein--for be it understood that, according to the degree of his
own capacity, a man there could perfectly read the countenance of
every neighbour, that is, unless it expressed something that was not
in himself--and I could read in them nothing of eagerness, only the
calm of a concentrated ministration. There was no seeking there, but
a strength of giving, a business-like earnestness to supply lack,
enlivened by no haste, and dulled by no weariness, brightened ever
by the reflected content of those who found their wants supplied. As
soon as one buyer was contented they turned graciously to another,
and gave ear until they perfectly understood with what object he had
come to seek their aid. Nor did their countenances change utterly as
they turned away, for upon them lingered the satisfaction as of one
who hath had a success, and by degrees melted into the supervening
content.

"'Then I turned to watch the countenances of them that bought.--And
there in like manner I saw no cupidity and no meanness. They spake
humbly, yet not because they sought a favour, but because they were
humble, for with their humility was mingled the confidence of
receiving that they sought. And truly it was a pleasure to see how
everyone knew what his desire was, making his choice readily and
with decision. I perceived also that everyone spoke not merely
respectfully, but gratefully, to him who served him. And at meeting
and parting such kindly though brief greetings passed as made me
wonder whether every inhabitant of such a mighty city could know
every other that dwelt therein. But I soon saw that it came not of
individual knowledge, but of universal faith and all-embracing love.

"'And as I stood and watched, suddenly it came into my mind that I
had never yet seen the coin of the country, and thereupon I kept my
eyes upon a certain woman who bought silk, that when she paid for
the same I might see the money. But that which she had largely
bought she took in her arms and carried away, and paid not.
Therefore I turned to watch another, who bought for a long journey,
but when he carried away that he bought, neither did he pay any
money. And I said to myself, These are well-known persons, to whom
it is more convenient to pay all at a certain season; and I turned
to a third who bought much fine linen. But behold! he paid not. Then
I began to observe again those that sold; whereupon I thought with
myself, How good must be the air of this land for the remembrance of
things! for these men write down nothing to keep on record the
moneys men owe them on all sides. And I looked and looked again and
yet again, and stood long watching--but so it was throughout the
whole place, which thronged and buzzed and swarmed like the busiest
of bee-hives--no man paid, and no man had a book wherein to write
that which the other owed!

"'Then I turned to my guide and said: How lovely is honesty! and
truly from what a labour it absolveth men! for here I see every man
keepeth in his mind his own debts, and not the debts of others, so
that time is not spent in paying of small sums, neither in the
keeping of account of such; but he that buyeth counteth up, and
doubtless when the day of reckoning arrives, each cometh and casteth
the money he oweth into the merchant's coffer, and both are
satisfied.

"'Then my conductor smiled, and said, Watch yet a while.

"'And I did as he said unto me, and stood and watched. But the same
thing went on everywhere; and I said to myself, Lo, I see nothing
new!--Suddenly, at my side, a man dropped upon his knees, and bowed
his head to the ground. And those that stood nigh him dropped also
upon their knees, and there arose a sound as of soft thunder; and
lo! everyone in the place had dropped upon his knees, and spread his
hands out before him. Every voice and every noise was hushed, every
movement had ceased, and I and my guide alone were left standing.

"'Then I whispered in his ear, It is the hour of prayer: shall we
not kneel also? And my guide answered, No man in this city kneeleth
because others do, and no man is judged if he kneeleth not. If thou
hast any grief or pain upon thee, then kneel; if not, then love God
in thy heart and be thankful, and kneel when thou goest into thy
chamber. Then said I, I will not kneel, but will watch and see.--It
is well, said my guide; and I stood.

"'For certain moments all was utter stillness--every man and woman
kneeling, with hands outstretched, save him who had first kneeled,
and his hands hung by his sides and his head was still bowed to the
earth. At length he rose up, and lo! his face was wet with tears;
and all the people rose also, and with a noise throughout the place;
and the man made a low obeisance to them that were nigh him, the
which they returned with equal reverence, and then with downcast
eyes he walked slowly from the shop. The moment he was gone, the
business of the place, without a word of remark on any side
concerning what had passed, began again and went on as before.
People came and went, some more eager and outward, some more staid
and inward, but all contented and cheerful. At length a bell
somewhere rang sweet and shrill, and after that no one entered the
place, and what was in progress began to be led to a decorous
conclusion. In three or four minutes the floor was empty, and the
people also of the shop had gone, each about his own affairs,
without shutting door or window.

"'I went out last with my guide, and we seated ourselves under a
tree of the willow-kind on the bank of one of the quieter streams,
and straightway I began to question him. Tell me, sir, I said, the
purport of what I have seen, for not yet have I understood how these
happy people do their business and pass from hand to hand not a
single coin I And he answered, Where greed and ambition and
self-love rule, money must be: where there is neither greed nor
ambition nor self-love, money is needless. And I asked, Is it then
by the same ancient mode of barter that they go about their affairs?
Truly I saw no exchange of any sort.--Bethink thee, said my guide,
if thou hadst gone into any other shop throughout the whole city,
thou wouldst have seen the same thing. I see not how that should
make the matter plainer to me, I answered.--Where neither greed nor
ambition nor selfishness reigneth, said my guide, there need and
desire have free scope, for they work no evil.--But even now I
understand you not, sir, I said.--Hear me then, answered my guide,
for I will speak to thee more plainly. Wherefore do men take money
in their hands when they go where things are?--Because they may not
have the things without giving the money.--And where they may have
things without giving money, there they take no money in their
hands?--Truly no, sir, if there be such a place.--Then such a place
is this, and so is it here.--But how can men give of their goods
and receive nought in return?--By receiving everything in return.
Tell me, said my guide, why do men take money for their goods?--That
they may have wherewithal to go and buy other things which they need
for themselves.--But if they also may go to this place or that
place where the things are the which they need, and receive of those
things without money and without price, is there then good cause why
they should take money in their hands?--Truly no, I answered; and I
begin, methinks, to see how the affair goeth. Yet are there some
things still whereupon I would gladly be resolved. And first of all,
how cometh it that men are moved to provide these and those goods for
the supply of the wants of their neighbours, when they are drawn thereto
by no want in themselves, and no advantage to themselves?--Thou reasonest,
said my guide, as one of thine own degree, who to the eyes of the
full-born ever look like chrysalids, closed round in a web of their
own weaving; and who shall blame thee until thou thyself shinest within
thyself? Understand that it is never advantage to himself that moveth
a man in this kingdom to undertake this or that. The thing that alone
advantageth a man here is the thing which he doth without thought unto
that advantage. To your world, this world goeth by contraries. The man
here that doeth most service, that aideth others the most to the
obtaining of their honest desires, is the man who standeth highest
with the Lord of the place, and his reward and honour is, to be enabled
to the spending of himself yet more for the good of his fellows. There
goeth a rumour amongst us even now that one shall ere long be ripe for
the carrying of a message from the King to the spirits that are in
prison. Thinkest thou it is a less potent stirring up of thought and
energy to desire and seek and find the things that will please the
eye, and cheer the brain, and gladden the heart of the people of
this great city, so that when one prayeth, 'Give me, friend, of thy
loaves,' a man may answer, 'Take of them, friend, as many as thou
needest'--is that, I say, an incentive to diligence less potent
than the desire to hoard or to excel? Is it not to share the bliss
of God who hoardeth nothing, but ever giveth liberally? The joy of a
man here is to enable another to lay hold upon that which is of his
own kind and be glad and grow thereby--doctrine strange and
unbelievable to the man in whom the well of life is yet sealed.
Never have they been many at a time in the old world who could thus
enter into the joy of their Lord. And yet, if thou bethink thee,
thou wilt perceive that such bliss is not unknown amongst thy
fellows. Knowest thou no musician who would find it joy enough for a
night, to scale the tower of a hundred bells, and send the great
meteors of music-light flying over the care-tortured city? Would
everyone even of thy half-created race reason with himself and say:
Truly it is in the night, and no one can see who it is that
ministereth; the sounds alone will go forth nor bear my image; I
shall reap no honour; I will not rise and go? Thou knowest, I say,
some in thy world who would not speak thus in their hearts, but
would willingly consent to be as nothing, so to give life to their
fellows. In this city so is it with all--in shop or workshop, in
study or theatre, all seek to spend and be spent for the lovely all.
--And I said, One thing tell me, sir--how much a man may have for
the asking.--What he will--that is, what he can well use.--Who then
shall be the judge thereof?--Who but the man himself?--What if he
should turn to greed, and begin to hoard and spare?--Sawest thou not
the man this day because of whom all business ceased for a time?--to
that man had come a thought of accumulation instead of growth, and
he dropped upon his knees in shame and terror. And thou sawest how
all business ceased, and straightway that of the shop was made what
below they call a church; for everyone hastened to the poor man's
help, the air was filled with praying breath, and the atmosphere of
God-loving souls was around him; the foul thought fled, and the man
went forth glad and humble, and to-morrow he will return for that
which he needeth. If thou shouldst be present then, thou wilt see
him more tenderly ministered unto than all the rest.--And if such a
man prayed not?--If such a man slept ere he repented, he would wake
with hatred in his heart towards the city and everyone therein, and
would straightway flee into the wilderness. And the angel of the
Lord would go out after him, and smite him with a word, and he would
vanish from amongst us, and his life would be the life of one of
those least of living things that are in your world born of the
water; and there must he grow up again, crawling through the
channels of thousand-folded difference, from animal to animal, until
at length a human brain be given him, and after generations he
become once again capable of being born of the spirit into the
kingdom of liberty. Then shall all his past life open upon him, and
in shame and dismay will he repent a thousand-fold, and will sin no
more. Such, at least, are thoughts of our wise men upon the matter;
but truly we know not.--It is good, I said. But how are men guided
as to what lies to them to provide for the general good?--Every man
doeth what thing he can, and the more his labour is desired, the
more he rejoices.--If a man should desire that he could no where
find in the city?--Then would he straightway do his endeavour to
provide that thing for all in the city who might after him desire
the same.--Now, sir, methinks I know and understand, I answered. And
we rose and went farther.'"

"I think that COULD be!" said the curate, breaking the silence that
followed when Rachel ceased.

"Not in this world," said the draper.

"To doubt that it COULD be," said the gatekeeper, "would be to doubt
whether the kingdom of heaven is a chimera or a divine idea."



CHAPTER XXIX.

POLWARTH AND LINGARD.



The morning after Wingfold's second visit, Lingard, much to his
sister's surprise, partly to her pleasure, and somewhat to her
consternation, asked for his clothes: he wanted to get up. So little
energy had he hitherto shown, so weak was he, and so frequent had
been the symptoms of returning fever, that the doctor had not yet
thought of advising more than an hour's sitting while his bed was
made comfortable. And Helen had felt that she had him, if not safe,
yet safer in bed than he could be elsewhere.

His wish to rise was a sign that he was getting better. But could
she wish him to get better, seeing every hour threatened to be an
hour of torture? On the other hand, she could not but hope that, for
the last day or so, his mind had been a little more at ease.
Assuredly the light in his eye was less troubled: perhaps he saw
prospect of such mental quiet as might render life endurable.

He declined assistance, and Helen, having got him everything he
required, left the room to wait within hearing. It took him a long
time to dress, but he had resolved to do it himself, and at length
called Helen.

She found he looked worse in his clothes--fearfully worn and white!
Ah, what a sad ghost he was of his former sunny self! Helen turned
her eyes from him, that he might not see how changed she thought
him, and there were the trees in the garden and the meadows and the
park beyond, bathing in the strength of the sun, betwixt the blue
sky and the green earth! "What a hideous world it is!" she said to
herself. She was not yet persuaded, like her cousin, that it was the
best possible world--only that, unfortunately, not much was
possible in worlds.

"Will you get me something, Helen," he said. "Mr. Wingfold will be
here, and I want to be able to talk to him."

It was the first time he had asked for food, though he had seldom
refused to take what she brought him. She made him lie on the couch,
and gave orders that, if Mr. Wingfold called, he should be shown up
at once. Leopold's face brightened; he actually looked pleased when
his soup came. When Wingfold was announced, he grew for a moment
radiant.

Helen received the curate respectfully, but not very cordially: SHE
could not make Leopold's face shine!

"Would your brother like to see Mr. Polwarth?" asked the curate
rather abruptly.

"I will see anyone you would like me to see. Mr. Wingfold," answered
Liugard for himself, with a decision that clearly indicated
returning strength.

"But, Leopold, you know it is hardly to be desired," suggested
Helen, "that more persons--"

"I don't know that," interrupted Leopold with strange expression.

"Perhaps I had better tell you, Miss Lingard," said the curate,
"that it was Mr. Polwarth who found the thing I gave you. After your
visit, he could not fail to put things together, and had he been a
common man, I should have judged it prudent to tell him for the sake
of secrecy what I have told him for the sake of counsel. I repeat in
your brother's hearing what I have said to you, that he is the
wisest and best man I have ever known.--I left him in the meadow at
the foot of the garden. He is suffering to-day, and I wanted to save
him the longer walk. If you will allow me, I will go and bring him
in."

"Do," said Leopold. "Think, Helen!--If he is the wisest and best man
Mr. Wingfold ever knew! Tell him where to find the key."

"I will go myself," she said--with a yielding to the inevitable.

When she opened the door, there was the little man seated a few
yards off on the grass. He had plucked a cowslip and was looking
into it so intently that he neither heard nor saw her.

"Mr. Polwarth!" said Helen.

He lifted his eyes, rose, and taking off his hat, said with a smile,

"I was looking in the cowslip for the spots which the fairy, in the
Midsummer Night's Dream, calls 'rubies.'--How is your brother, Miss
Lingard?"

Helen answered with cold politeness, and led the way up the garden
with considerably more stateliness of demeanour than was necessary.

When he followed her into the room, "This is Mr. Polwarth, Leopold,"
said the curate, rising respectfully. "You may speak to him as
freely as to me, and he is far more able to give you counsel than I
am."

"Would you mind shaking hands with me, Mr. Polwarth?" said Leopold,
holding out his shadowy hand.

Polwarth took it with the kindest of smiles, and held it a moment in
his.

"You think me an odd-looking creature--don't you?" he said; "but
just because God made me so, I have been compelled to think about
things I might otherwise have forgotten, and that is why Mr.
Wingfold would have me come to see you."

The curate placed a chair for him, and the gate-keeper sat down.
Helen seated herself a little way off in the window, pretending, or
hardly more, to hem a handkerchief. Leopold's big eyes went
wandering from one to the other of the two men.

"What a horrible world it is!" was the thought that kept humming on
like an evil insect in Helen's heart. "I am sorry to see you suffer
so much," said Leopold kindly, for he heard the laboured breath of
the little man, and saw the heaving of his chest.

"It does not greatly trouble me," returned Polwarth. "It is not my
fault, you see," he added with a smile; "at least I don't think it
is."

"You are happy to suffer without fault," said Leopold. "It is
because it is just that my punishment seems greater than I can
bear."

"You need God's forgiveness in your soul."

"I don't see how that should do anything for me."

"I do not mean it would take away your suffering; but it would make
you able to bear it. It would be fresh life in you."

"I can't see why it should. I can't feel that I have wronged God. I
have been trying to feel it, Mr. Wingfold, ever since you talked to
me. But I don't know God, and I only feel what I have done to
Emmeline. If I said to God, 'Pardon me,' and he said to me, 'I do
pardon you,' I should feel just the same. What could that do to set
anything right that I have set wrong? I am what I am, and what I
ever shall be, and the injury which came from me, cleaves fast to
her, and is my wrong wherever she is."

He hid his face in his hands.

"What use CAN it be to torture the poor boy so?" said Helen to
herself.

The two men sat silent. Then Polwarth said:

"I doubt if there is any use in trying to feel. And no amount of
trying could enable you to imagine what God's forgiveness is like to
those that have it in them. Tell me something more you do feel, Mr.
Lingard."

"I feel that I could kill myself to bring her back to life."

"That is, you would gladly make amends for the wrong you have done
her."

"I would give my life, my soul, to do it."

"And there is nothing you can do for it?"

Helen began to tremble.

"What is there that can be done?" answered Leopold. "It does seem
hard that a man should be made capable of doing things that he is
not made capable of undoing again."

"It is indeed a terrible thought! And even the smallest wrong is,
perhaps, too awful a thing for created being ever to set right
again."

"You mean it takes God to do that?"

"I do."

"I don't see how he ever could set some things right."

"He would not be God if he could not or would not do for his
creature what that creature cannot do for himself, and must have
done for him or lose his life."

"Then he isn't God, for he can't help me."

"Because you don't see what can be done, you say God can do
nothing--which is as much as to say there cannot be more within his
scope than there is within yours! One thing is clear, that, if he
saw no more than what lies within your ken, he could not be God. The
very impossibility you see in the thing points to the region wherein
God works."

"I don't quite understand you. But it doesn't matter. It's all a
horrible mess. I wish I was dead."

"My dear sir, is it reasonable that because a being so capable of
going wrong finds himself incapable of setting right, he should
judge it useless to cry to that being who called him into being to
come to his aid?--and that in the face of the story--if it were but
an old legend, worn and disfigured--that he took upon himself our
sins?"

Leopold hung his head.

"God needs no making up to him," the gate-keeper went on--"so far
from it that he takes our sins on himself, that he may clear them
out of the universe. How could he say he took our sins upon him, if
he could not make amends for them to those they had hurt?"

"Ah!" cried Leopold, with a profound sigh, "--if that could be!--if
he could really do that!"

"Why, of course he can do that!" said Polwarth. "What sort of
watchmaker were he who could not set right the watches and clocks
himself made?"

"But the hearts of men and women!" "Which God does far more than
make!" interposed Polwarth. "That a being able to make another
self-conscious being distinct from himself, should be able also to
set right whatever that being could set wrong, seems to me to follow
of simple necessity. He might even, should that be fit, put the man
himself in the way of making up for what he had done, or at least
put it in his power to ask and receive a forgiveness that would set
all right between him and the person wronged. One of the painful
things in the dogma of the endless loss of the wicked is that it
leaves no room for the righteous to make up to them for the wrongs
they did them in this life. For the righteous do the wicked far more
wrong than they think--the righteous being all the time, in
reality, the wealthy, and the wicked the poor. But it is a blessed
word that there are first that shall be last, and last that shall be
first."

Helen stared. This last sounded to her mere raving madness, and she
thought how wrong she had been to allow such fanatics to gain power
over her poor Leopold--who sat before them whiter than ever, and
with what she took for a wilder gleam in his eye.

"Is there not the might of love, and all eternity for it to work in,
to set things right?" ended Polwarth.

"O God!" cried Leopold, "if that might be true! That would be a gift
indeed--the power to make up for the wrong I have done!"

He rose from the couch--slowly, sedately, I had almost said
formally, like one with a settled object, and stood erect, swaying a
little from weakness.

"Mr. Wingfold," he said, "I want of you one more favour: will you
take me to the nearest magistrate? I wish to give myself up."

Helen started up and came forward, paler than the sick man.

"Mr. Wingfold! Mr. Polwarth!" she said, and turned from the one to
the other, "the boy is not himself. You will never allow him to do
such a mad thing!"

"It may be the right thing," said the curate to Leopold, "but we
must not act without consideration."

"I have considered and considered it for days--for weeks," returned
Leopold; "but until this moment I never had the courage to resolve
on the plainest of duties.--Helen, if I were to go up to the throne
of God with the psalm in my mouth, and say to him, 'Against thee,
thee only, have I sinned,' it would be false; for I have sinned
against every man, woman, and child in England at least, and I will
repudiate myself. To the throne of God I want to go, and there is no
way thither for me but through the gate of the law."

"Leopold!" pleaded Helen, as if for her own life with some hard
judge, "what good can it do to send another life after the one that
is gone? It cannot bring it back, or heal a single sorrow for its
loss."

"Except perhaps my own," said Leopold, in a feeble voice, but not
the less in a determined tone.

"Live till God send for you," persisted Helen, heedless of his
words. "You can give your life to make up for the wrong you have
done in a thousand better ways: that would be but to throw it in the
dirt. There is so much good waiting to be done!"

Leopold sank on the couch.

"I am sitting down again, Helen, only because I am not able to
stand," he said. "I WILL go. Don't talk to me about doing good!
Whatever I touched I should but smear with blood. I want the
responsibility of my own life taken off me. I am like the horrible
creature Frankenstein made--one that has no right to existence--and
at the same time like the maker of it, who is accountable for that
existence. I am a blot on God's creation that must be wiped off. For
this my strength is given back to me, and I am once more able to
will and resolve. You will find I can act too. Helen, if you will
indeed be my sister, you must NOT prevent me now. I know it is hard
upon you, awfully hard. I know I am dragging your life down with
mine, but I cannot help it. If I don't do it, I shall but go out of
one madness into another, ever a deeper, until the devils can't hold
me. Mr. Polwarth, is it not my duty to give myself up? Ought not the
evil thing to be made manifest and swept out of the earth? Most
people grant it a man's first duty to take care of his life: that is
the only thing I can do for mine. It is now a filthy pool with a
corpse in it:--I would clean it out--have the thing buried at least,
though never forgotten--never, never forgotten. Then I shall die
and go to God and see what he can do for me."

"Why should you put it off till then?" said Polwarth. "Why not go to
him at once and tell him all?"

As if it had been Samuel at the command of Eli, Leopold rose and
crept feebly across the floor to the dressing-room, entered it, and
closed the door.

Then Helen turned upon Wingfold with a face white as linen, and eyes
flashing with troubled wrath. The tigress-mother swelled in her
heart, and she looked like a Maenad indeed.

"Is this then your religion?" she cried with quivering nostril.
"Would he you dare to call your master have stolen into the house of
a neighbour to play upon the weakness of a poor lad suffering from
brain-fever? A fine trophy of your persuasive power and priestly
craft you would make of him! What is it to you whether he confesses
his sins or not? If he confesses them to him you say is your God, is
not that enough? For shame, gentlemen!"

She ceased, and stood trembling and flashing--a human
thunder-cloud. Neither of the men cared to assert innocence,
because, although they had not advised the step, they entirely
approved of it.

A moment more, and her anger suddenly went out. She burst into
tears, and falling on her knees before the curate, begged and prayed
like a child condemned to some frightful punishment. It was terrible
to Wingfold to see a woman in such an agony of prayer--to one who
would not grant it--and that one himself. In vain he sought to raise
her.

"If you do not save Leopold, I will kill myself," she cried, "and my
blood will be on your head."

"The only way to save your brother is to strengthen him to do his
duty, whatever that may be."

The hot fit of her mental fever returned. She sprang to her feet,
and her face turned again almost like that of a corpse with pale
wrath.

"Leave the house!" she said, turning sharply upon Polwarth, who
stood solemn and calm at Wingfold's side, a step behind. It was
wonderful what an unconscious dignity radiated from him.

"If my friend goes, I go too," said Wingfold. "But I must first tell
your brother why."

He made a step towards the dressing-room.

But now came a fresh change of mood upon Helen. She darted between
him and the door, and stood there with such a look of humble
entreaty as went to his very heart, and all but unmanned him. Ah,
how lovely she looked in the silent prayer of tears! But not even
her tears could turn Wingfold from what seemed his duty. They could
only bring answering tears from the depth of a tender heart. She saw
he would not flinch.

"Then may God do to you as you have done to me and mine!" she said.

"Amen!" returned Wingfold and Polwarth together.

The door of the dressing-room opened, and out came Leopold, his
white face shining.

"God has heard me!" he cried.

"How do you know that?" said his sister, in the hoarse accents of
unbelieving despair.

"Because he has made me strong to do my duty. He has reminded me
that another man may be accused of my crime, and now to conceal
myself were to double my baseness."

"It will be time enough to think of that when there is a necessity
for it. The thing you imagine may never happen," said Helen, in the
same unnatural voice.

"Leave it," cried Leopold, "until an innocent man shall have
suffered the torture and shame of a false accusation, that a guilty
man may a little longer act the hypocrite! No, Helen, I have not
fallen so low as that yet. Believe me, this is the only living hour
I have had since I did the deed!"

But as he spoke, the light died out of his face, and ere they could
reach him he had fallen heavily on the floor.

"You have killed him!" cried Helen, in a stifled shriek, for all the
time she had never forgotten that her aunt might hear.

But the same moment she caught from his condition a lurid hope.

"Go, I beg of you," she said--"by the window there, before my aunt
comes. She must have heard the fall. There is the key of the door
below."

The men obeyed, and left the house in silence.

It was some time before Leopold returned to consciousness. He made
no resistance to being again put to bed, where he lay in extreme
exhaustion.



CHAPTER XXX.

THE STRONG MAN.



The next day he was much too exhausted and weak to talk about
anything. He took what his sister brought him, smiled his thanks,
and once put up his hand and stroked her cheek. But her heart was
not gladdened by these signs of comparative composure, for what gave
him quiet but the same that filled her with unspeakable horror?

The day after that was Saturday, and George Bascombe came as usual.
The sound of his step in the hall made her dying hope once more
flutter its wings: having lost the poor stay of the parson, from
whom she had never expected much, she turned in her fresh despair to
the cousin from whom she had never looked for anything. But what was
she to say to him?--Nothing yet, she resolved; but she would take
him to see Leopold--for was he not sure to hear that the parson had
been admitted? She did not feel at all certain that she was doing
right, but she would do it; and if she left them together, possibly
George might drop some good PRACTICAL advice, which, though spoken
in ignorance, might yet tell. George was such a healthy nature and
such a sound thinker! Was it not as ridiculous as horrible for any
man to think he had a right to throw away his very existence, and
bring disgrace upon his family as well, for a mere point of
honour--no, not honour, mere fastidiousness!

Leopold was better, and willing enough to see George, saying only,

"I would rather it were Mr. Wingfold. But he can't come to-day, I
suppose, to-morrow being Sunday."

George's entrance brought with it a waft of breezy health, and a
show of bodily vigour pleasant and refreshing to the heart of the
invalid. Kindness shone in his eyes, and his large, handsome hand
was out as usual while he was yet yards away. It swallowed up that
of poor Leopold, and held it fast.

"Come, come, old fellow! What's the meaning of this?" he said right
cheerily. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself--lying in bed like
this in such weather! Why ain't you riding in the park with Helen,
instead of moping in this dark room? You'll be as blind as the fish
in the cave of Kentucky if you don't get out of this directly! We
must see what we can do to get you up!"

He glanced round the room, saw that Helen had left it, and changed
his tone to a lower and serious one:

"I say, my boy, you must have been playing old Harry with your
constitution to bring yourself to such a pass! By Jove! this will
never do! You must turn over a new leaf, you know. That sort of
thing never pays. The game's not worth the candle. Why, you've been
at death's door, and life's not so long that you can afford to play
ducks and drakes with it."

Thus he talked, in expostulatory rattle, the very high-priest of
social morality, for some, time before Leopold could get a word in.
But when he did, it turned the current into quite another channel.

An hour passed, and George reappeared in the drawing-room, where
Helen was waiting for him. He looked very grave.

"I fear matters are worse with poor Leopold than I had imagined," he
said.

Helen gave a sad nod of acquiescence.

"He's quite off his head," continued George, "--telling me such an
awful cock-and-bull story with the greatest gravity! He WILL have it
that he is a murderer--the murderer of that very girl I was telling
you about, you remember,--"

"Yes, yes! I know," said Helen, as a faint gleam of reviving hope
shot up from below her horizon. George took the whole thing for a
sick fancy, and who was likely to know better than he--a lawyer, and
skilled in evidence? Not a word would she say to interfere with such
an opinion!

"I hope you gave him a good talking-to," she said.

"Of course I did," he answered; "but it was of no use. I see exactly
how it is. He gave me a full and circumstantial account of the
affair, filling up all the gaps, it is true, but going only just as
far as the newspapers supplied the skeleton. How he got away, for
instance, he could not tell me. And now nothing will serve him but
confess it! He don't care who knows it! He's as mad as a hatter!--I
beg your pardon, Helen--on that one point, I mean. The moment I saw
him I read madness in his eye!--What's to be done now?"

"George, I look to you," said Helen. "Poor aunt is of no use. Think
what will become of her, if the unhappy boy should attempt to give
himself up! We should be the talk of the county--of the whole
country!"

"Why didn't you tell me of this before, Helen? It must have been
coming on for some time."

"George, I didn't know what to do. And I had heard you say such
terrible things about the duty of punishing crime."

"Good gracious, Helen! where is your logic? What has crime to do
with it! Is down-right stark-staring madness a crime? Anyone with
half an eye can see the boy is mad!"

Helen saw she had made a slip, and held her peace. George went on:--

"He ought to be shut up."

"No! no! no!" Helen almost screamed, and covered her face with her
hands.

"I've done my best to persuade him. But I will have another try.
That a fellow is out of his mind is no reason why he should be
unassailable by good logic--that is, if you take him on his own
admissions."

"I fear you will make nothing of him, George. He is set upon it, and
I don't know what IS to be done."

George got up, went back to Leopold, and plied him with the very
best of arguments. But they were of no avail. There was for him but
one door out of hell, and that was the door of confession--let what
might lie on the other side of it.

"Who knows," he said, "but the law of a life for a life may have
come of compassion for the murderer?"

"Nonsense!" said George. "It comes of the care of society over its
own constituent parts."

"Whatever it came from, I know this," returned Leopold, "that, since
I made up my mind to confess, I am a man again."

George was silent. He found himself in that rare condition for
him--perplexity. It would be most awkward if the thing came to be
talked of! Some would even be fools enough to believe the story!
Entire proof of madness would only make such set it down as the
consequence--or, if pity prevailed, then as the cause of the deed.
They might be compelled to shut him up, to avoid no end of the most
frightful annoyances. But Helen, he feared, would not consent to
that. And then his story was so circumstantial--and therefore so far
plausible--that there was no doubt most magistrates would be ready
at once to commit him for trial--and then where would there be an
end of the most offensive embarrassments!

Thus George reflected uneasily. But at length an idea struck him.

"Well," he said lightly, "if you will, you will. We must try to make
it as easy for you as we can. I will manage it, and go with you. I
know all about such things, you know. But it won't do just to-day.
If you were to go before a magistrate, looking as you do now, he
would not listen to a word you uttered. He would only fancy you in a
fever and send you to bed. If you are quiet to-day--let me see--
to-morrow is Sunday--and if you are in the same mind on Monday, I
will take you to Mr. Hooker--he's one of the county magistrates, and
you shall make your statement to him."

"Thank you.--I should like Mr. Wingfold to go too."

"Soh!" said George to himself.

"By all means," he answered. "We can take him with us."

He went again to Helen.

"This is a most awkward business," he said. "Poor girl! what you
must have gone through with him! I had no idea! But I see my way out
of it. Keep your mind easy, Helen. I do see what I can do. Only
what's the meaning of his wanting that fellow Wingfold to go with
him? I shouldn't a bit wonder now if it all came of some of his
nonsense! At least, it may be that ass of a curate that has put
confession in his head--to save his soul, of course! How did he come
to see him?"

"The poor boy would see him."

"What made him want to see him?"

Helen held her peace. She saw George suspected the truth.

"Well, no matter," said George. "But one never knows what may come
of things. We ought always to look well ahead.--You had better go
and lie down awhile, Helen; you don't seem quite yourself."

"I am afraid to leave Leopold," she answered. "He will be telling
aunt and everybody now."

"That I will take care he does not," said George. "You go and lie
down a while."

Helen's strength had been sorely tried: she had borne up bravely to
the last; but now that she could do no more, and her brother had
taken himself out of her hands, her strength had begun to give way,
and, almost for the first time in her life, in daylight, she longed
to go to bed. Let George, or Wingfold, or who would, see to the
wilful boy! She had done what she could.

She gladly yielded to George's suggestion, sought an unoccupied
room, bolted the door, and threw herself upon the bed.



CHAPTER XXXI.

GEORGE AND LEOPOLD.



George went again to Leopold's room, and sat down by him. The youth
lay with his eyes half closed, and a smile--a faint sad
one--flickered over his face. He was asleep: from infancy he had
slept with his eyes open.

"Emmeline!" he murmured, in the tone of one who entreats
forgiveness.

"Strange infatuation!" said George to himself: "even his dreams are
mad! Good God! there can't be anything in it--can there? I begin to
feel as if I were not quite safe myself. Mad-doctors go mad
themselves, they say. I wonder what sort of floating sporule carries
the infection--reaching the brain by the nose, I fancy. Or perhaps
there is latent madness in us all, requiring only the presence of
another madness to set it free."

Leopold was awake and looking at him.

"Is it a very bad way of dying?" he asked.

"What is, old boy!"

"Hanging."

"Yes, very bad--choking, you know," answered George, who wanted to
make the worst of it.

"I thought the neck was broken and all was over," returned Leopold,
with a slight tremor in his voice.

"Yes, that's how it ought to be; but it fails so often!"

"At least there's no more hanging in public, and that's a comfort,"
said Leopold.

"What a queer thing," said George to himself, "that a man should be
ready to hang for an idea! Why should he not do his best to enjoy
what is left of the sunlight, seeing, as their own prophet says, the
night cometh when no man can work? A few more whiffs of his cigar
before it goes out, would hurt no one. It is one thing to hang a
murderer, and quite another to hang yourself if you happen to be the
man. But he's stark raving mad, and must be humoured. Dance upon
nothing for an idea! Well, it's not without plenty of parallels in
history!--I wonder whether his one idea would give way now, if it
were brought to the actual test of hanging! It is a pity it couldn't
be tried, just for experiment's sake. But a strait-waistcoat would
be better."

Leopold's acquaintance with George had been but small, and of his
favourite theories he knew nothing. But he had always known that he
was not merely his sister's cousin, but the trusted friend both of
her and of her aunt; and since he had come to know of his frequent
visits, he had begun to believe him more to Helen than a friend.
Hence the moment he had made up his mind to confess, he was ready to
trust George entirely, and although he was disappointed to find him
receive his communication in a spirit so different from that of
Wingfold and his friend, he felt no motion of distrust on that
account, seeing Helen, who had been to him true as steel, took the
same view of his resolution.

"What would you do yourself then, George, if you had committed a
crime like mine?" he asked, after lying silent for a while.

None of George's theories had greatly taxed his imagination. He had
not been in any habit of fancying himself in this or that
situation--and when he did, it was always in some pleasant one of
victory or recognition. Possible conditions of humanity other than
pleasant, he had been content to regard from the outside, and come
to logical conclusions concerning, without, as a German would say,
thinking himself into them at all; and it would have been to do the
very idea of George Bascombe a wrong to imagine him entangled in any
such net of glowing wire as a crime against society! Therefore,
although for most questions George had always an answer ready, for
this he had none at hand, and required a moment, and but a moment,
to think.

"I would say to myself," he replied, "'What is done, is done, and is
beyond my power to alter or help.' And so I would be a man and bear
it--not a weakling, and let it crush me. No, by Jove! it shouldn't
crush ME!"

"Ah, but you haven't tried the weight of it, George!" returned
Leopold.

"God forbid!" said George.

"God forbid! indeed," rejoined Leopold; "but there 'tis done for all
his forbidding!"

"What's done is done, God or devil, and must be borne, I say," said
Bascombe, stretching out his legs. He was aware it sounded
heartless, but how could he help it? What else was there to be said?

"But if you can't bear it? If it is driving you mad--mad--mad? If
you must do something or kill yourself?" cried Leopold.

"You haven't done your best at trying yet," returned George. "But
you are ill, and not very able to try, I daresay, and so we can't
help it. On Monday we shall go to Mr. Hooker, and see what he says
to it."

He rose and went to get a book from the library. On the stair he met
the butler: Mr. Wingfold had called to see Mr. Lingard.

"He can't see him to-day. He is too much exhausted," said Bascombe;
and the curate left the house thoughtful and sorry, feeling as if a
vulture had settled by the side of the youth--a good-natured
vulture, no doubt, but not the less one bent on picking out the eyes
of his mind.

He walked away along the street towards the church with down-bent
head, seeing no one. He entered the churchyard, not looking whither
he went: a lovely soul was in pain and peril, and he could not get
near to help it. They were giving it choke-damp to breathe, instead
of mountain-air. They were washing its sores with anodynes instead
of laying them open with the knife of honesty, that they might be
cleansed and healed. He found himself stumbling among the level
gravestones, and stopped and sat down.

He sat a while, seeming to think of nothing, his eyes resting on a
little tuft of moss that shone like green gold in the sunlight on
the shoulder of an awkward little cherub's wing. Ere long he found
himself thinking how not the soul of Leopold, but that of Helen, was
in chief danger. Poor Leopold had the serpent of his crime to sting
him alive, but Helen had the vampyre of an imperfect love to fan her
asleep with the airs of a false devotion. It was Helen he had to be
anxious about more than Leopold.

He rose and walked back to the house.

"Can I see Miss Lingard?" he asked.

It was a maid who opened the door this time. She showed him into the
library, and went to inquire.



CHAPTER XXXII.

WINGFOLD AND HELEN.



When Helen lay down, she tried to sleep, but she could not even lie
still. For all her preference of George and his counsel, and her
hope in the view he took of Leopold's case, the mere knowledge that
in the next room her cousin sat by her brother, made her anxious and
restless.

At first it was the bare feeling that they were together--the thing
she had for so long taken such pains to prevent. Next came the fear
lest Leopold should succeed in persuading George that he was really
guilty--in which case, what would George, the righteous man,
counsel? And last and chief of all, what hope of peace to Leopold
could he in any of his counsel--except indeed he led him up to the
door of death, and urged him into the nothingness behind it? Then
what if George should be wrong, and there WAS something behind it?
Whatever sort of a something it might be, could the teaching of
George be in the smallest measure a preparation for it? Were it not
better, so far as the POSSIBILITY which remained untouched by any of
George's arguments was concerned, that Leopold should die believing
after Mr. Wingfold's fashion, and not disbelieving after George's?
If then there were nothing behind, he would be nothing the worse; if
there were, the curate might have in some sort prepared him for it.

And now first she began to feel that she was a little afraid of her
cousin--that she had yielded to his influence, or rather allowed him
to assume upon the possession of influence, until she was aware of
something that somewhere galled. He was a very good fellow, but was
he one fit to rule her life? Would her nature consent to look up to
his always, if she were to marry him? But the thought only flitted
like a cloud across the surface of her mind, for all her care was
Leopold, and alas! with him she was now almost angry, and it grieved
her sorely.

All these feelings together had combined to form her mood, when her
maid came to the door with the message that Mr. Wingfold was in the
library. She resolved at once to see him.

The curate's heart trembled a little as he waited for her. He was
not quite sure that it was his business to tell her her duty--yet
something seemed to drive him to it: he could not bear the idea of
her going on in the path of crookedness. It is no easy matter for
one man to tell another his duty in the simplest relations of life;
and here was a man, naturally shy and self-distrustful, daring to
rebuke and instruct a woman, whose presence was mighty upon him, and
whose influence was tenfold heightened by the suffering that
softened her beauty!

She entered, troubled yet stately, doubtful, yet with a kind of
half-trust in her demeanour, white, and blue-eyed, with pained
mouth, and a droop of weariness and suffering in eyelids and neck--a
creature to be worshipped if only for compassion of dignified
distress.

Thomas Wingfold's nature was one more than usually bent towards
helpfulness, but his early history, his lack of friends, of
confidence, of convictions, of stand or aim in life, had hitherto
prevented the outcome of that tendency. But now, like issuing water,
which, having found way, gathers force momently, the pent-up
ministration of his soul was asserting itself. Now that he
understood more of the human heart, and recognised in this and that
human countenance the bars of a cage through which peeped an
imprisoned life, his own heart burned in him with the love of the
helpless; and if there was mingled therein anything of the ambition
of benefaction, anything of the love of power, anything of
self-recommendation, pride of influence, or desire to be a centre of
good, and rule in a small kingdom of the aided and aiding, these
marshy growths had the fairest chance of dying an obscure death; for
the one sun, potent on the wheat for life, and on the tares for
death, is the face of Christ Jesus, and in that presence Wingfold
lived more and more from day to day.

And now came Helen, who, more than anyone whose history he had yet
learned--more perhaps than even her brother, needed such help as he
confidently hoped he knew now where she might find! But when he saw
her stand before him wounded and tearful and proud, regarding his
behaviour in respect of her brother as cruel and heartless; when he
felt in his very soul that she was jealous of his influence, that
she disliked and even despised him; it was only with a strong effort
he avoided assuming a manner correspondent to the idea of himself he
saw reflected in her mind, and submitting himself, as it were, to be
what she judged him.

When, however, by a pure effort of will, he rose above this weakness
and looked her full and clear in the face, a new jealousy of himself
arose: she stood there so lovely, so attractive, so tenfold womanly
in her misery, that he found he must keep a stern watch upon
himself, lest interest in her as a woman should trespass on the
sphere of simple humanity, wherein with favouring distinction is
recognized neither Jew nor Greek, prince nor peasant--not even man
or woman, only the one human heart that can love and suffer. It
aided him in this respect however, that his inherent modesty caused
him to look up to Helen as to a suffering goddess, noble, grand,
lovely, only ignorant of the one secret, of which he, haunting the
steps of the Unbound Prometheus, had learned a few syllables, broken
yet potent, which he would fain, could he find how, communicate in
their potency to her. And besides, to help her now looking upon him
from the distant height of conscious superiority, he must persuade
her to what she regarded as an unendurable degradation! The
circumstances assuredly protected him from any danger of offering
her such expression of sympathy as might not have been welcome to
her.

It is true that the best help a woman can get is from a right
man--equally true with its converse; but let the man who ventures
take heed. Unless he is able to counsel a woman to the hardest thing
that bears the name of duty, let him not dare give advice even to
her asking.

Helen however had not come to ask advice of Wingfold. She was in no
such mood. She was indeed weary of a losing strife, and only for a
glimmer of possible help from her cousin, saw ruin inevitable before
her. But this revival of hope in George had roused afresh her
indignation at the intrusion of Wingfold with what she chose to lay
to his charge as unsought counsel. At the same time, through all the
indignation, terror, and dismay, something within her murmured
audibly enough that the curate and not her cousin was the guide who
could lead her brother where grew the herb of what peace might yet
be had. It was therefore with a sense of bewilderment, discord, and
uncertainty, that she now entered the library.

Wingfold rose, made his obeisance, and advanced a step or two. He
would not offer a hand that might be unwelcome, and Helen did not
offer hers. She bent her neck graciously, and motioned him to be
seated.

"I hope Mr. Lingard is not worse," he said.

Helen started. Had anything happened while she had been away from
him?

"No. Why should he be worse?" she answered. "Have they told you
anything?"

"I have heard nothing; only as I was not allowed to see him,--"

"I left him with Mr. Bascombe half an hour ago," she said, willing
to escape the imputation of having refused him admittance.

Wingfold gave an involuntary sigh.

"You do not think that gentleman's company desirable for my brother,
I presume," she said with a smile so lustreless that it seemed
bitter.

"He won't do him any harm--at least I do not think you need fear
it."

"Why not? No one in your profession can think his opinions harmless,
and certainly he will not suppress them."

"A man with such a weight on his soul as your brother carries, will
not be ready to fancy it lightened by having lumps of lead thrown
upon it. An easy mind may take a shroud on its shoulders for wings,
but when trouble comes and it wants to fly, then it knows the
difference. Leopold will not be misled by Mr. Bascombe."

Helen grew paler. She would have him misled--so far as not to betray
himself.

"I am far more afraid of your influence than of his," added the
curate.

"What bad influence do you suppose me likely to exercise?" asked
Helen, with a cold smile.

"The bad influence of wishing him to act upon your conscience
instead of his own."

"Is my conscience then a worse one than Leopold's?" she asked, but
as if she felt no interest in the answer.

"It is not his, and that is enough. His own and no other can tell
him what he ought to do."

"Why not leave him to it, then?" she said bitterly.

"That is what I want of you, Miss Lingard. I would have you fear to
touch the life of the poor youth."

"Touch his life! I would give him mine to save it. YOU counsel him
to throw it away."

"Alas, what different meanings we put on the word! You call the few
years he may have to live in this world his life; while I--"

"While you count it the millions of which yon know
nothing,--somewhere whence no one has ever returned to bring any
news!--a wretched life at best if it be such as you represent it."

"Pardon me, that is merely what you suppose I mean by the word. I do
not mean that; I mean something altogether different. When I spoke
of his life, I thought nothing about here or there, now or then. You
will see what I mean if you think how the light came back to his eye
and the colour to his cheek the moment he had made up his mind to do
what had long seemed his duty. When I saw him again that light was
still in his eyes, and a feeble hope looked out of every feature.
Existence, from a demon-haunted vapor, had begun to change to a
morning of spring; life, the life of conscious well-being, of law
and order and peace, had begun to dawn in obedience and
self-renunciation; his resurrection was at hand. But you then, and
now you and Mr. Bascombe, would stop this resurrection; you would
seat yourselves upon his gravestone to keep him down!--And
why?--Lest he, lest you, lest your family should be disgraced by
letting him out of his grave to tell the truth."

"Sir!" cried Helen, indignantly drawing herself to her full height
and something more.

Wingfold took one step nearer to her.

"My calling is to speak the truth," he said: "and I am bound to warn
you that you will never be at peace in your own soul until you love
your brother aright."

"Love my brother!" Helen almost screamed. "I would die for him."

"Then at least let your pride die for him," said Wingfold, not
without indignation.

Helen left the room, and Wingfold the house.

She had hardly shut the door, and fallen again upon the bed, when
she began to know in her heart that the curate was right. But the
more she knew it, the less would she confess it even to herself: it
was unendurable.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

A REVIEW.



The curate walked hurriedly home, and seated himself at his table,
where yet lay his Greek Testament open at the passage he had been
pondering for his sermon. Alas! all he had then been thinking with
such fervour had vanished. He knew his inspiring text, but the rest
was gone. Worst of all, feeling was gone with thought, and was, for
the time at least, beyond recall. Righteous as his anger was, it had
ruffled the mirror of his soul till it could no longer reflect
heavenly things. He rose, caught up his New Testament, and went to
the church-yard. It was a still place, and since the pains of a new
birth had come upon him, he had often sought the shelter of its
calm. A few yards from the wall of the rectory garden stood an old
yew-tree, and a little nearer on one side was a small thicket of
cypress; between these and the wall was an ancient stone upon which
he generally seated himself. It had already begun to be called the
curate's chair. Most imagined him drawn thither by a clerical love
of gloom, but in that case he could scarcely have had such delight
in seeing the sky through the dark foliage of the yew: he thought
the parts so seen looked more divinely blue than any of the rest. He
would have admitted, however, that he found quiet, for the soul as
well as the body, upon this edge of the world, this brink of the
gulf that swallowed the ever-pouring ever-vanishing Niagara of human
life. On the stone he now seated himself and fell a-musing.

What a change had come upon him--slow, indeed, yet how vast, since
the night when he sat in the same churchyard indignant and uneasy
with the words of Bascombe like hot coals in his heart! He had been
made ashamed of himself who had never thought much of himself, but
the more he had lost of worthiness in his own eyes the more he had
gained in worth. And the more his poor satisfaction with himself had
died out, the more the world had awaked around him. For it must be
remembered that a little conceit is no more to be endured than a
great one, but must be swept utterly away. Sky and wind and water
and birds and trees said to him, "Forget thyself and we will think
of thee. Sing no more to thyself thy foolish songs of decay, and we
will all sing to thee of love and hope and faith and resurrection."
Earth and air had grown full of hints and sparkles and vital
motions, as if between them and his soul an abiding community of
fundamental existence had manifested itself. He had never in the old
days that were so near and yet seemed so far behind him, consciously
cared for the sunlight: now even the shadows were marvellous in his
eyes, and the glitter the golden weather-cock on the tower was like
a cry of the prophet Isaiah. High and alone in the clear blue air it
swung, an endless warning to him that veers with the wind of the
world, the words of men, the summer breezes of their praise, or the
bitter blasts of their wintry blame; it was no longer to him a cock
of the winds, but a cock of the truth--a Peter-cock, that crew aloud
in golden shine its rebuke of cowardice and lying. Never before had
he sought acquaintance with the flowers that came dreaming up out of
the earth in the woods and the lanes like a mist of loveliness, but
the spring-time came in his own soul, and then he knew the children
of the spring. And as the joy of the reviving world found its way
into the throats of the birds, so did the spring in his reviving
soul find its way into the channels of thought and speech, and issue
in utterance both rhythmic and melodious.--But not in any, neither
in all of these things lay the chief sign and embodiment of the
change he recognised in himself. It was this: that, whereas in
former times the name Christ had been to him little more than a dull
theological symbol, the thought of him and of his thoughts was now
constantly with him; ever and anon some fresh light would break from
the cloudy halo that enwrapped his grandeur; ever was he growing
more the Son of Man to his loving heart, ever more the Son of God to
his aspiring spirit. Testimony had merged almost in vision: he saw
into, and partly understood the perfection it presented: he looked
upon the face of God and lived. Oftener and oftener, as the days
passed, did it seem as if the man were by his side, and at times, in
the stillness of the summer-eve, when he walked alone, it seemed
almost, as thoughts of revealing arose in his heart, that the Master
himself was teaching him in spoken words. What need now to rack his
soul in following the dim-seen, ever evanishing paths of
metaphysics! he had but to obey the prophet of life, the man whose
being and doing and teaching were blended in one three-fold harmony,
or rather, were the three-fold analysis of one white essence--he had
but to obey him, haunt his footsteps, and hearken after the sound of
his spirit, and all truth would in healthy process be unfolded in
himself. What philosophy could carry him where Jesus would carry his
obedient friends--into his own peace, namely, far above all fear and
all hate, where his soul should breathe such a high atmosphere of
strength at once and repose, that he should love even his enemies,
and that with no such love as condescendingly overlooks, but with
the real, hearty, and self-involved affection that would die to give
them the true life! Alas! how far was he from such perfection
now--from such a martyrdom, lovely as endless, in the consuming fire
of God! And at the thought, he fell from the heights of his
contemplation--but was caught in the thicket of prayer.

By the time he reached his lodging, the glow had vanished, but the
mood remained. He sat down and wrote the first sketch of the
following verses, then found that his sermon had again drawn nigh,
and was within the reach of his spiritual tentacles.

    Father, I cry to thee for bread,
        With hungered longing, eager prayer;
    Thou hear'st, and givest me instead
        More hunger and a half-despair.

    O Lord, how long? My days decline;
        My youth is lapped in memories old;
    I need not bread alone, but wine--
        See, cup and hand to thee I hold.

    And yet thou givest: thanks, O Lord,
        That still my heart with hunger faints!
    The day will come when at thy board
        I sit forgetting all my plaints.

    If rain must come and winds must blow,
        And I pore long o'er dim-seen chart,
    Yet, Lord, let not the hunger go,
        And keep the faintness at my heart.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

A SERMON TO LEOPOLD.



When the curate stood up to read, his eyes as of themselves sought
Mrs. Ramshorn's pew. There sat Helen, with a look that revealed, he
thought, more of determination and less of suffering. Her aunt was
by her side, cold and glaring, an ecclesiastical puss, ready to
spring upon any small church-mouse that dared squeak in its own
murine way. Bascombe was not visible, and that was a relief. For an
unbelieving face, whether the dull dining countenance of a mayor, or
the keen searching countenance of a barrister, is a sad bone in the
throat of utterance, and has to be of set will passed over, and, if
that may be, forgotten. Wingfold tried hard to forget Mrs.
Ramshorn's, and one or two besides, and by the time he came to the
sermon, thought of nothing but human hearts, their agonies, and him
who came to call them to him.

"I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

"Was it then of the sinners first our Lord thought ere he came from
the bosom of the Father? Did the perfect will embrace in the
all-atoning tenderness of the divine heart, the degraded,
disfigured, defiled, distorted thing, whose angel is too blind ever
to see the face of its Father? Through all the hideous filth of the
charnel-house, which the passions had heaped upon her, did the Word
recognise the bound, wing-lamed, feather-draggled Psyche, panting in
horriblest torture? Did he have a desire to the work of his hands,
the child of his father's heart, and therefore, strong in
compassion, speed to the painful rescue of hearts like his own? That
purity arid defilement should thus meet across all the great
dividing gulf of law and morals! The friend of publicans and
sinners! Think: he was absolutely friendly with them! was not
shocked at them! held up no hands of dismay! Only they must do so no
more.

"If he were to come again, visibly, now, which do you think would
come crowding around him in greater numbers--the respectable
church-goers, or the people from the slums? I do not know. I dare
not judge. But the fact that the church draws so few of those that
are despised, of those whom Jesus drew and to whom most expressly he
came, gives ground for question as to how far the church is like her
Lord. Certainly many a one would find the way to the feet of the
master, from whom the respectable church-goer, the pharisee of our
time, and the priest who stands on his profession, would draw back
with disgust. And doubtless it would be in the religious world that
a man like Jesus, who, without a professional education, a craftsman
by birth and early training, uttered scarce a phrase endorsed by
clerical use, or a word of the religious cant of the day, but taught
in simplest natural forms the eternal facts of faith and hope and
love, would meet with the chief and perhaps the only BITTER
opponents of his doctrine and life.

"But did our Lord not call the righteous? Did he not call honest men
about him--James and John and Simon--sturdy fisher-folk, who faced
the night and the storm, worked hard, fared roughly, lived honestly,
and led good cleanly lives with father and mother, or with wife and
children? I do not know that he said anything special to convince
them that they were sinners before he called them. But it is to be
remarked that one of the first effects of his company upon Simon
Peter was, that the fisherman grew ashamed of himself, and while
ashamed was yet possessed with an impulse of openness and honesty no
less than passionate. The pure man should not be deceived as to what
sort of company he was in! 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O
Lord!' I would I could clearly behold with my mind's eye what he
then saw in Jesus that drew from him that cry! fle knew him for the
Messiah: what was the working of the carpenter upon the fisherman
that satisfied him of the fact? Would the miracle have done it but
for the previous talk from the boat to the people? I think not.
Anyhow St. Peter judged himself among the sinners, and we may be
sure that if these fishers had been self-satisfied men, they would
not have left all and gone after him who called them. Still it would
hardly seern that it was specially as sinners that he did so. Again,
did not men such as the Lord himself regarded as righteous come to
him--Nicodemus, Nathaniel, the young man who came running and
kneeled to him, the scribe who was not far from the kingdom, the
centurion, in whom he found more faith than in any Jew, he who had
built a synagogue in Capernaum, and sculptured on its lintel the pot
of manna? These came to him, and we know he was ready to receive
them. But he knew such would always come drawn of the Father; they
did not want much calling; they were not so much in his thoughts
therefore; he was not troubled about them; they were as the ninety
and nine, the elder son at home, the money in the purse. Doubtless
they had much to learn, were not yet in the kingdom, but they were
crowding about its door. If I set it forth aright, I know not, but
thus it looks to me. And one thing I cannot forget--it meets me in
the face--that some at least,--who knows if not all?--of the purest
of men have counted themselves the greatest sinners! Neither can I
forget that other saying of our Lord, a stumbling-block to many--our
Lord was not so careful as perhaps some would have had him, lest men
should stumble at the truth--The first shall be last and the last
first. While our Lord spoke the words: The time cometh that
whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service, even
then was Saul of Tarsus at the feet of Gamaliel, preparing to do God
that service; but like one born out of due time, after all the rest
he saw the Lord, and became the chief in labour and suffering. Thus
the last became first. And I bethink me that the beloved disciple,
who leaned on the bosom of the Lord, who was bolder to ask him than
any--with the boldness of love, he whom the meek and lowly called a
Son of Thunder, was the last of all to rejoin the master in the
mansions of his Father. Last or first--if only we are with him! One
thing is clear that in the order of the Lord's business, first came
sinners.

"Who that reflects can fail to see this at least, that a crime
brings a man face to face with the reality of things? He who knows
himself a sinner--I do not mean as one of the race--the most
self-righteous man will allow that as a man he is a sinner--he to
whom, in the words of the communion service, the remembrance of his
sins is grievous, and the burden of them intolerable, knows in
himself that he is a lost man. He can no more hold up his head among
his kind; he cannot look a woman or a child in the face; he cannot
be left alone with the chaos of his thoughts, and the monsters it
momently breeds. The joys of his childhood, the delights of
existence, are gone from him. There dwells within him an ever
present judgment and fiery indignation. Such a man will start at the
sound of pardon and peace, even as the camel of the desert at the
scent of water. Therefore surely is such a man nearer to the gate of
the kingdom than he against whom the world has never wagged a
tongue, who never sinned against a social custom even, and has as
easy a conscience as the day he was born; but who knows so little of
himself that, while he thinks he is good enough, he carries within
him the capacity and possibility of every cardinal sin, waiting only
the special and fitting temptation which, like the match to the
charged mine, shall set all in a roar! Of this danger he knows
nothing, never dreams of praying against it, takes his seat in his
pew Sunday after Sunday with his family, nor ever murmurs Lead us
not into temptation with the least sense that temptation is a
frightful thing, but repeats and responds and listens in perfect
self-satisfaction, doubting never that a world made up of such as he
must be a pleasant sight in the eyes of the Perfect. There are men
who will never see what they are capable or in danger of until they
have committed some fearful wrong. Nay there are some for whom even
that is not enough; they must be found out by their fellow-men, and
scorned in the eyes of the world, before they can or will admit or
comprehend their own disgrace. And there are worse still than these.

"But a man may be oppressed by his sins, and hardly know what it is
that oppresses him. There is more of sin in our burdens than we are
ourselves aware. It needs not that we should have committed any
grievous fault. Do we recognize in ourselves that which needs to be
set right, that of which we ought to be ashamed, something which,
were we lifted above all worldly anxieties, would yet keep us
uneasy, dissatisfied, take the essential gladness out of the
sunlight, make the fair face of the earth indifferent to us, a
trustful glance a discomposing look, and death a darkness?--I say to
the man who feels thus, whatever he may have done or left undone, he
is not so far from the kingdom of heaven but that he may enter
thereinto if he will.

"And if there be here any soul withered up with dismay, torn with
horrible wonder that he should have done the deed which he yet hath
done, to him I say--Flee from the self that hath sinned and hide
thee with Christ in God. Or if the words sound to thee as the words
of some unknown tongue, and I am to thee as one that beateth the
air, I say instead--Call aloud in thy agony, that, if there be a
God, he may hear the voice of his child, and put forth his hand and
lay hold upon him, and rend from him the garment that clings and
poisons and burns, squeeze the black drop from his heart, and set
him weeping like a summer rain. O blessed, holy, lovely repentance
to which the Son of Man, the very root and man of men, hath come to
call us! Good it is, and I know it. Come and repent with me, O heart
wounded by thine own injustice and wrong, and together we will seek
the merciful. Think not about thy sin so as to make it either less
or greater in thine own eyes. Bring it to Jesus, and let him show
thee how vile a thing it is. And leave it to him to judge thee--sure
that he will judge thee justly, extenuating nothing, for he hath to
cleanse thee utterly, and yet forgetting no smallest excuse that may
cover the amazement of thy guilt, or witness for thee that not with
open eyes didst thou do the deed. At the last he cried, Father
forgive them, for they know not what they do. For his enemies the
truth should be spoken, his first words when they had nailed him to
the cross. But again I say, let it be Christ that excuseth thee; he
will do it to more purpose than thou, and will not wrong thy soul by
excusing thee a hair too much, or thy heart by excusing thee a hair
too little.

"I dreamed once that I had committed a terrible crime. Carried
beyond myself by passion, I knew not at the moment HOW evil was the
thing I did. But I knew it was evil. And suddenly I became aware,
when it was too late, of the nature of that which I had done. The
horror that came with the knowledge was of the things that belong
only to the secret soul. I was the same man as before I did it, yet
was I now a man of whom my former self could not have conceived the
possibility as dwelling within it. The former self seemed now by
contrast lovely in purity, yet out of that seeming purity this
fearful, foul _I_ of the present had just been born! The face of my
fellow-man was an avenging law, the face of a just enemy. Where,
how, should the frightful face be hidden? The conscious earth must
take it into its wounded bosom, and that before the all-seeing
daylight should come. But it would come, and I should stand therein
pointed at by every ray that shot through the sunny atmosphere! "The
agony was of its own kind, and I have no word to tell what it was
like. An evil odour and a sickening pain combined, might be a symbol
of the torture. As is in the nature of dreams, possibly I lay but a
little second on the rack, yet an age seemed shot through and
through with the burning meshes of that crime, while, cowering and
terror-stricken, I tossed about the loathsome fact in my mind. I had
DONE it, and from the done there was no escape: it was for evermore
a thing done.--Came a sudden change: I awoke. The sun stained with
glory the curtains of my room, and the light of light darted keen as
an arrow into my very soul. Glory to God! I was innocent! The stone
was rolled from my sepulchre. With the darkness whence it had
sprung, the cloud of my crime went heaving lurid away. I was a
creature of the light and not of the dark. For me the sun shone and
the wind blew; for me the sea roared and the flowers sent up their
odours. For me the earth had nothing to hide. My guilt was wiped
away; there was no red worm gnawing at my heart; I could look my
neighbour in the face, and the child of my friend might lay his hand
in mine and not be defiled! All day long the joy of that deliverance
kept surging on in my soul.

"But something yet more precious, more lovely than such an awaking,
will repentance be to the sinner; for after all it was but a dream
of the night from which that set me free, and the spectre-deed that
vanished had never had a place in the world of fact; while the
horror from which repentance delivers, is no dream, but a stubborn
abiding reality. Again, the vanishing vision leaves the man what he
was before, still capable it may be of committing the crime from
which he is not altogether clean to whom in his sleep it was
possible: repentance makes of the man a new creature, one who has
awaked from the sleep of sin to sleep that sleep no more. The change
in the one case is not for greatness comparable with that in the
other. The sun that awakes from the one sleep, is but the outward
sun of our earthly life--a glorious indeed and lovely thing, which
yet even now is gathering a crust of darkness, blotting itself out
and vanishing: the sun that awakes a man from the sleep of death is
the living Sun that casts from his thought out into being that other
sun, with the space wherein it holds planetary court--the Father of
lights, before whose shining in the inner world of truth eternal,
even the deeds of vice become as spectral dreams, and, with the
night of godlessness that engendered them, flee away.

"But a man may answer and say to me--'Thou art but borne on the
wings of thine imagination. The fact of the crime remains, let a man
tear out his heart in repentance, and no awaking can restore an
innocence which is indeed lost.' I answer: The words thou speakest
are in themselves true, yet thy ignorance makes them false, Thou
knowest not the power of God, nor what resurrection from the dead
means. What if, while it restored not thy former innocence, it
brought thee a purity by the side of whose white splendour and
inward preciousness, the innocence thou hadst lost was but a bauble,
being but a thing that turned to dross in the first furnace of its
temptation? Innocence is indeed priceless--that innocence which God
counteth innocence, but thine was a flimsy show, a bit of polished
and cherished glass--instead of which, if thou repentest, thou shalt
in thy jewel-box find a diamond. Is thy purity, O fair Psyche of the
social world, upon whose wings no spattering shower has yet cast an
earthy stain, and who knowest not yet whether there be any such
thing as repentance or need of the same!--is thy purity to compare
with the purity of that heavenly Psyche, twice born, who even now in
the twilight-slumbers of heaven, dreams that she washes with her
tears the feet of her Lord, and wipes them with the hairs of her
head? O bountiful God, who wilt give us back even our innocence
tenfold! He can give an awaking that leaves the past of the soul ten
times farther behind than ever waking from sleep left the dreams of
the night.

"If the potency of that awaking lay in the inrush of a new billow of
life, fresh from its original source, carrying with it an
enlargement of the whole nature and its every part, a glorification
of every faculty, every sense even, so that the man, forgetting
nothing of his past or its shame, should yet cry out in the joy of
his second birth: 'Lo! I am a new man; I am no more he who did that
awful and evil thing, for I am no more capable of doing it! God be
praised, for all is well!'--would not such an awaking send the past
afar into the dim distance of the first creation, and wrap the ill
deed in the clean linen cloth of forgiveness, even as the dull
creature of the sea rolls up the grain of intruding sand in the
lovely garment of a pearl? Such an awaking means God himself in the
soul, not disdaining closest vital company with the creature he
foresaw and created. And the man knows in full content that he is
healed of his plague. Nor would he willingly lose the scars which
record its outbreak, for they tell him what he is without God, and
set him ever looking to see that the door into the heavenly garden
stands wide for God to enter the house when it pleases him. And who
can tell whether, in the train of such an awaking, may not follow a
thousand opportunities and means of making amends to those whom he
has injured? "Nor must I fail to remind the man who has committed no
grievous crime, that except he has repented of his evil self, and
abjured all wrong, he is not safe from any, even the worst offence.
There was a time when I could not understand that he who loved not
his brother was a murderer: now I see it to be no figure of speech,
but, in the realities of man's moral and spiritual nature, an
absolute simple fact. The murderer and the unloving sit on the same
bench before the judge of eternal truth. The man who loves not his
brother, I do not say is at this moment capable of killing him, but
if the natural working of his unlove be not checked, he will
assuredly become capable of killing him. Until we love our brother,
yes, until we love our enemy, who is yet our brother, we contain
within ourselves the undeveloped germ of murder. And so with every
sin in the tables or out of the tables. There is not one in this
congregation who has a right to cast a look of reproach at the worst
felon who ever sat in the prisoners' dock. I speak no hyperbole, but
simple truth. We are very ready to draw in our minds a distinction
between respectable sins--human imperfections we call them,
perhaps--and disreputable vices, such as theft and murder; but there
is no such distinction in fact. Many a thief is a better man than
many a clergyman, and miles nearer to the gate of the kingdom. The
heavenly order goes upon other principles than ours, and there are
first that shall be last, and last that shall be first. Only, at the
root of all human bliss lies repentance.

"Come then at the call of the Water, the Healer, the Giver of
repentance and light, the Friend of publicans and sinners, all ye on
whom lies the weight of a sin, or the gathered heap of a thousand
crimes. He came to call such as you, that he might make you clear
and clean. He cannot bear that you should live on in such misery,
such badness, such blackness of darkness. He would give you again
your life, the bliss of your being. He will not speak to you one
word of reproach, except indeed you should aim at justifying
yourselves by accusing your neighbour. He will leave it to those who
cherish the same sins in their hearts to cast stones at you: he who
has no sin casts no stone. Heartily he loves you, heartily he hates
the evil in you--so heartily that he will even cast you into the
fire to burn you clean. By making you clean he will give you rest.
If he upbraid, it will not be for past sin, but for the present
little faith, holding out to him an acorn-cup to fill. The rest of
you keep aloof, if you will, until you shall have done some deed
that compels you to cry out for deliverance; but you that know
yourselves sinners, come to him that he may work in you his perfect
work, for he came not to call the righteous, but sinners, us, you
and me, to repentance."

END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.





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