Paul Faber, Surgeon
Part 7 out of 9
learned it. But he never doubted that his work as much as his bread
would be given him, never rushed out wildly snatching at something to do
for God, never helped a lazy man to break stones, never preached to
foxes. It was what the Father gave him to do that he cared to do, and
that only. It was the man next him that he helped--the neighbor in need
of the help he had. He did not trouble himself greatly about the
happiness of men, but when the time and the opportunity arrived in which
to aid the struggling birth of the eternal bliss, the whole strength of
his being responded to the call. And now, having felt a thread vibrate,
like a sacred spider he sat in the center of his web of love, and waited
In proportion as the love is pure, and only in proportion to that, can
such be a pure and real calling. The least speck of self will defile
it--a little more may ruin its most hopeful effort.
Two days after, he heard, from some of the boys hurrying to the pond,
that Mrs. Faber was missing. He followed them, and from a spot beyond
the house, looking down upon the lake, watched their proceedings. He
saw them find her bonnet--a result which left him room to doubt. Almost
the next moment a wavering film of blue smoke rising from the Old House
caught his eye. It did not surprise him, for he knew Dorothy Drake was
in the habit of going there--knew also by her face for what she went:
accustomed to seek solitude himself, he knew the relations of it. Very
little had passed between them. Sometimes two persons are like two drops
running alongside of each other down a window-pane: one marvels how it
is they can so long escape running together. Persons fit to be bosom
friends will meet and part for years, and never say much beyond
good-morning and good-night.
But he bethought him that he had not before known her light a fire, and
the day certainly was not a cold one. Again, how was it that with the
cries of the boys in her ears, searching for a sight of the body in her
very garden, she had never come from the house, or even looked from a
window? Then it came to his mind what a place for concealment the Old
House was: he knew every corner of it; and thus he arrived at what was
almost the conviction that Mrs. Faber was there. When a day or two had
passed, he was satisfied that, for some reason or other, she was there
for refuge. The reason must be a good one, else Dorothy would not be
aiding--and it must of course have to do with her husband.
He next noted how, for some time, Dorothy never went through his gate,
although he saw reason to believe she went to the Old House every day.
After a while, however, she went through it every day. They always
exchanged a few words as she passed, and he saw plainly enough that she
carried a secret. By and by he began to see the hover of words unuttered
about her mouth; she wished to speak about something but could not quite
make up her mind to it. He would sometimes meet her look with the
corresponding look of "Well, what is it?" but thereupon she would
invariably seem to change her mind, would bid him good morning, and pass
When Faber at length returned to Glaston, his friends were shocked at
his appearance. Either the hand of the Lord, or the hand of crushing
chance, had been heavy upon him. A pale, haggard, worn, enfeebled man,
with an eye of suffering, and a look that shrunk from question, he
repaired to his desolate house. In the regard of his fellow-townsmen he
was as Job appeared to the eyes of his friends; and some of them, who
knew no more of religion than the sound of its name, pitied him that he
had not the comfort of it. All Glaston was tender to him. He walked
feebly, seldom showed the ghost of a smile, and then only from kindness,
never from pleasure. His face was now almost as white as that of his
lost Juliet. His brother doctors behaved with brotherly truth. They had
attended to all his patients, poor as well as rich, and now insisted
that he should resume his labors gradually, while they fulfilled his
lack. So at first he visited only his patients in the town, for he was
unable to ride; and his grand old horse, Ruber, in whom he trusted, and
whom he would have ventured sooner to mount than Niger, was gone! For
weeks he looked like a man of fifty; and although by degrees the
restorative influences of work began to tell upon him, he never
recovered the look of his years. Nobody tried to comfort him. Few dared,
for very reverence, speak to the man who carried in him such an awful
sorrow. Who would be so heartless as counsel him to forget it? and what
other counsel was there for one who refused like him? Who could have
brought himself to say to him--"There is loveliness yet left, and within
thy reach: take the good, etc.; forget the nothing that has been, in the
something that may yet for awhile avoid being nothing too; comfort thy
heart with a fresh love: the time will come to forget both, in the
everlasting tomb of the ancient darkness"? Few men would consent to be
comforted in accordance with their professed theories of life; and more
than most would Faber, at this period of his suffering, have scorned
such truth for comfort. As it was, men gave him a squeeze of the hand,
and women a tearful look; but from their sympathy he derived no
faintest pleasure, for he knew he deserved nothing that came from heart
of tenderness. Not that he had begun to condemn himself for his hardness
to the woman who, whatever her fault, yet honored him by confessing it,
or to bemoan her hard fate to whom a man had not been a hiding-place
from the wind, a covert from the tempest of life, a shadow-shelter from
the scorching of her own sin. As he recovered from the double shock,
and, his strength slowly returning, his work increased, bringing him
again into the run of common life, his sense of desolation increased. As
his head ached less, his heart ached the more, nor did the help he
ministered to his fellows any longer return in comfort to himself.
Hitherto his regard of annihilation had been as of something so distant,
that its approach was relatively by degrees infinitesimal, but as the
days went on, he began to derive a gray consolation from the thought
that he must at length cease to exist. He would not hasten the end; he
would be brave, and see the play out. Only it was all so dull! If a
woman looked kindly at him, if for a moment it gave him pleasure, the
next it was as an arrow in his heart. What a white splendor was vanished
from his life! Where were those great liquid orbs of radiating
darkness?--where was that smile with its flash of whiteness?--that form
so lithe, yet so stately, so perfect in modulation?--where were those
hands and feet that spoke without words, and took their own way with his
heart?--those arms--? His being shook to its center. One word of
tenderness and forgiveness, and all would have been his own still!--But
on what terms?--Of dishonor and falsehood, he said, and grew hard again.
He was sorry for Juliet, but she and not he was to blame. She had ruined
his life, as well as lost her own, and his was the harder case, for he
had to live on, and she had taken with her all the good the earth had
for him. She had been the sole object of his worship; he had
acknowledged no other divinity; she was the loveliness of all things;
but she had dropped from her pedestal, and gone down in the sea that
flows waveless and windless and silent around the worlds. Alas for life!
But he would bear on till its winter came. The years would be as tedious
as hell; but nothing that ends can be other than brief. Not willingly
even yet would he fail of what work was his. The world was bad enough;
he would not leave it worse than he had found it. He would work life
out, that he might die in peace. Fame truly there was none for him, but
his work would not be lost. The wretched race of men would suffer a
little the less that he had lived. Poor comfort, if more of health but
ministered to the potency of such anguish as now burrowed in him like a
mole of fire!
There had been a time when, in the young pathos of things, he would shut
his eyes that the sunset might not wound him so sore; now, as he rode
homeward into the fronting sunset, he felt nothing, cared for nothing,
only ached with a dull aching through body and soul. He was still kind
to his fellows, but the glow of the kindness had vanished, and truest
thanks hardly waked the slightest thrill.
He very seldom saw Wingfold now, and less than ever was inclined toward
his doctrine; for had it not been through him this misery had come upon
him? Had he not, with the confidence of all the sciences, uttered the
merest dreams as eternal truths? How could poor Juliet help supposing he
knew the things he asserted, and taking them for facts? The human heart
was the one unreasonable thing, sighing ever after that which is not!
Sprung from nothing, it yet desired a creator!--at least some hearts did
so: his did not; he knew better!
There was of course no reason in this. Was the thing not a fact which
she had confessed? was he not a worshiper of fact? did he not even
dignify it with the name of truth? and could he wish his wife had kept
the miserable fact to herself, leaving him to his fools'-paradise of
ignorance? Why then should he feel resentment against the man whose
teaching had only compelled her to confess it?--But the thing was out of
the realm of science and its logic.
Sometimes he grew fierce, and determined to face every possible agony,
endure all, and dominate his misery; but ever and anon it returned with
its own disabling sickness, bringing the sense of the unendurable. Of
his own motion he saw nobody except in his practice. He studied hard,
even to weariness and faintness, contrived strange experiments, and
caught, he believed, curious peeps into the house of life. Upon them he
founded theories as wild as they were daring, and hob-nobbed with death
and corruption. But life is at the will of the Maker, and misery can not
kill it. By degrees a little composure returned, and the old keen look
began to revive. But there were wrinkles on the forehead that had
hitherto been smooth as ivory; furrows, the dry water-courses of sorrow,
appeared on his cheeks, and a few silvery threads glinted in his hair.
His step was heavy, and his voice had lost its ring--the cheer was out
of it. He no more obtruded his opinions, for, as I have said, he shrunk
from all interchange, but he held to them as firmly as ever. He was not
to be driven from the truth by suffering! But there was a certain
strange movement in his spirit of which he took no note--a feeling of
resentment, as if against a God that yet did not exist, for making upon
him the experiment whether he might not, by oppression, be driven to
believe in Him.
When Dorothy knew of his return, and his ways began to show that he
intended living just as before his marriage, the time seemed come for
telling Juliet of the accident and his recovery from the effects of it.
She went into violent hysterics, and the moment she could speak, blamed
Dorothy bitterly for not having told her before.
"It is all your lying religion!" she said.
"Your behavior, Juliet," answered Dorothy, putting on the matron, and
speaking with authority, "shows plainly how right I was. You were not to
be trusted, and I knew it. Had I told you, you would have rushed to him,
and been anything but welcome. He would not even have known you; and you
would have been two on the doctor's hands. You would have made
everything public, and when your husband came to himself, would probably
have been the death of him after all."
"He may have begun to think more kindly of me by that time," said
Juliet, humbled a little.
"We must not act on _may-haves_," answered Dorothy.
"You say he looks wretched now," suggested Juliet.
"And well he may, after concussion of the brain, not to mention what
preceded it," said Dorothy.
She had come to see that Juliet required very plain speaking. She had so
long practiced the art of deceiving herself that she was skillful at it.
Indeed, but for the fault she had committed, she would all her life long
have been given to petting and pitying, justifying and approving of
herself. One can not help sometimes feeling that the only chance for
certain persons is to commit some fault sufficient to shame them out of
the self-satisfaction in which they burrow. A fault, if only it be great
and plain enough to exceed their powers of self-justification, may then
be, of God's mercy, not indeed an angel of light to draw them, but
verily a goblin of darkness to terrify them out of themselves. For the
powers of darkness are His servants also, though incapable of knowing
it: He who is first and last can, even of those that love the lie, make
slaves of the truth. And they who will not be sons shall be slaves, let
them rant and wear crowns as they please in the slaves' quarters.
"You must not expect him to get over such a shock all at once," said
Dorothy. "--It may be," she continued, "that you were wrong in running
away from him. I do not pretend to judge between you, but, perhaps,
after the injury you had done him, you ought to have left it with him to
say what you were to do next. By taking it in your own hands, you may
have only added to the wrong."
"And who helped me?" returned Juliet, in a tone of deep reproach.
"Helped you to run from him, Juliet!--Really, if you were in the habit
of behaving to your husband as you do to me--!" She checked herself, and
resumed calmly--"You forget the facts of the case, my dear. So far from
helping you to run from him, I stopped you from running so far that
neither could he find you, nor you return to him again. But now we must
make the best of it by waiting. We must find out whether he wants you
again, or your absence is a relief to him. If I had been a man, I should
have been just as wild as he."
She had seen in Juliet some signs that self-abhorrence was wanting, and
self-pity reviving, and she would connive at no unreality in her
treatment of herself. She was one thing when bowed to the earth in
misery and shame, and quite another if thinking herself hardly used on
It was a strange position for a young woman to be in--that of watcher
over the marriage relations of two persons, to neither of whom she could
be a friend otherwise than _ab extra_. Ere long she began almost to
despair. Day after day she heard or saw that Faber continued sunk in
himself, and how things were going there she could not tell. Was he
thinking about the wife he had lost, or brooding over the wrong she had
done him? There was the question--and who was to answer it? At the same
time she was all but certain, that, things being as they were, any
reconciliation that might be effected would owe itself merely to the
raising, as it were of the dead, and the root of bitterness would soon
trouble them afresh. If but one of them had begun the task of
self-conquest, there would be hope for both. But of such a change there
was in Juliet as yet no sign.
Dorothy then understood her position--it was wonderful with what
clearness, but solitary necessity is a hot sun to ripen. What was she to
do? To what quarter--could she to any quarter look for help? Naturally
she thought first of Mr. Wingfold. But she did not feel at all sure that
he would consent to receive a communication upon any other understanding
than that he was to act in the matter as he might see best; and would it
be right to acquaint him with the secret of another when possibly he
might feel bound to reveal it? Besides, if he kept it hid, the result
might be blame to him; and blame, she reasoned, although a small matter
in regard to one like herself, might in respect of a man in the curate's
position involve serious consequences. While she thus reflected, it came
into her mind with what enthusiasm she had heard him speak of Mr.
Polwarth, attributing to him the beginnings of all enlightenment he had
himself ever received. Without this testimony, she would not have once
thought of him. Indeed she had been more than a little doubtful of him,
for she had never felt attracted to him, and from her knowledge of the
unhealthy religious atmosphere of the chapel, had got unreasonably
suspicious of cant. She had not had experience enough to distinguish
with any certainty the speech that comes from the head and that which
comes out of the fullness of the heart. A man must talk out of that
which is in him; his well must give out the water of its own spring; but
what seems a well maybe only a cistern, and the water by no means living
water. What she had once or twice heard him say, had rather repelled
than drawn her; but Dorothy had faith, and Mr. Wingfold had spoken.
Might she tell him? Ought she not to seek his help? Would he keep the
secret? Could he help if he would? Was he indeed as wise as they said?
In the meantime, little as she thought it, Polwarth had been awaiting a
communication from her; but when he found that the question whose
presence was so visible in her whole bearing, neither died nor bore
fruit, he began to think whether he might not help her to speak. The
next time, therefore, that he opened the gate to her, he held in his
hand a little bud he had just broken from a monthly rose. It was a hard
little button, upon which the green leaves of its calyx clung as if
"What is the matter with this bud, do you think, Miss Drake?" he asked.
"That you have plucked it," she answered sharply, throwing a suspicious
glance in his face.
"No; that can not be it," he answered with a quiet smile of
intelligence. "It has been just as you see it for the last three days. I
only plucked it the moment I saw you coming."
"Then the frost has caught it."
"The frost _has_ caught it," he answered; "but I am not quite sure
whether the cause of its death was not rather its own life than the
"I don't see what you mean by that, Mr. Polwarth," said Dorothy,
doubtfully, and with a feeling of discomfort.
"I admit it sounds paradoxical," returned the little man. "What I mean
is, that the struggle of the life in it to unfold itself, rather than
any thing else, was the cause of its death."
"But the frost was the cause of its not being able to unfold itself,"
"That I admit," said Polwarth; "and perhaps a weaker life in the flower
would have yielded sooner. I may have carried too far an analogy I was
seeking to establish between it and the human heart, in which repression
is so much more dangerous than mere oppression. Many a heart has
withered like my poor little bud, because it did not know its friend
when it saw him."
Dorothy was frightened. He knew something! Or did he only suspect?
Perhaps he was merely guessing at her religious troubles, wanting to
help her. She must answer carefully.
"I have no doubt you are right, Mr. Polwarth," she said; "but there are
some things it is not wise, and other things it would not be right to
"Quite true," he answered. "I did not think it wise to say any thing
sooner, but now I venture to ask how the poor lady does?"
"What lady?" returned Dorothy, dreadfully startled, and turning white.
"Mrs. Faber," answered Polwarth, with the utmost calmness. "Is she not
still at the Old House?"
"Is it known, then?" faltered Dorothy.
"To nobody but myself, so far as I am aware," replied the gatekeeper.
"And how long have you known it?"
"From the very day of her disappearance, I may say."
"Why didn't you let me know sooner?" said Dorothy, feeling aggrieved,
though she would have found it hard to show wherein lay the injury.
"For more reasons than one," answered Polwarth; "but one will be enough:
you did not trust me. It was well therefore to let you understand I
could keep a secret. I let you know now only because I see you are
troubled about her. I fear you have not got her to take any comfort,
Dorothy stood silent, gazing down with big, frightened eyes at the
strange creature who looked steadfastly up at her from under what seemed
a huge hat--for his head was as large as that of a tall man. He seemed
to be reading her very thoughts.
"I can trust you, Miss Drake," he resumed. "If I did not, I should have
at once acquainted the authorities with my suspicions; for, you will
observe, you are hiding from a community a fact which it has a right to
know. But I have faith enough in you to believe that you are only
waiting a fit time, and have good reasons for what you do. If I can give
you any help, I am at your service."
He took off his big hat, and turned away into the house.
Dorothy stood fixed for a moment or two longer, then walked slowly away,
with her eyes on the ground. Before she reached the Old House, she had
made up her mind to tell Polwarth as much as she could without betraying
Juliet's secret, and to ask him to talk to her, for which she would
contrive an opportunity.
For some time she had been growing more anxious every day. No sign of
change showed in any quarter; no way opened through the difficulties
that surrounded them, while these were greatly added to by the
likelihood appearing that another life was on its way into them. What
was to be done? How was she in her ignorance so to guard the hopeless
wife that motherhood might do something to console her? She had two
lives upon her hands, and did indeed want counsel. The man who knew
their secret already--the minor prophet, she had heard the curate call
him--might at least help her to the next step she must take.
Juliet's mental condition was not at all encouraging. She was often
ailing and peevish, behaving as if she owed Dorothy grudge instead of
gratitude. And indeed to herself Dorothy would remark that if nothing
more came out of it than seemed likely now, Juliet would be under no
very ponderous obligation to her. She found it more and more difficult
to interest her in any thing. After Othello she did not read another
play. Nothing pleased her but to talk about her husband. If Dorothy had
seen him, Juliet had endless questions to put to her about him; and when
she had answered as many of them as she could, she would put them all
over again afresh. On one occasion when Dorothy could not say she
believed he was, when she saw him, thinking about his wife, Juliet went
into hysterics. She was growing so unmanageable that if Dorothy had not
partially opened her mind to Polwarth, she must at last have been
compelled to give her up. The charge was wearing her out; her strength
was giving way, and her temper growing so irritable that she was ashamed
of herself--and all without any good to Juliet. Twice she hinted at
letting her husband know where she was, but Juliet, although, on both
occasions, she had a moment before been talking as if Dorothy alone
prevented her from returning to him, fell on her knees in wild distress,
and entreated her to bear with her. At the smallest approach of the idea
toward actuality, the recollection rushed scorching back--of how she had
implored him, how she had humbled herself soul and body before him, how
he had turned from her with loathing, would not put forth a hand to lift
her from destruction and to restore her to peace, had left her naked on
the floor, nor once returned "to ask the spotted princess how she
fares"--and she shrunk with agony from any real thought of again
supplicating his mercy.
Presently another difficulty began to show in the near distance: Mr.
Drake, having made up his mind as to the alterations he would have
effected, had begun to think there was no occasion to put off till the
spring, and talked of commencing work in the house at no distant day.
Dorothy therefore proposed to Juliet that, as it was impossible to
conceal her there much longer, she should go to some distant part of the
country, where she would contrive to follow her. But the thought of
moving further from her husband, whose nearness, though she dared not
seek him, seemed her only safety, was frightful to Juliet. The wasting
anxiety she caused Dorothy did not occur to her. Sorrow is not selfish,
but many persons are in sorrow entirely selfish. It makes them so
important in their own eyes, that they seem to have a claim upon all
that people can do for them.
To the extent therefore, of what she might herself have known without
Juliet's confession, Dorothy, driven to her wits' end, resolved to open
the matter to the gatekeeper; and accordingly, one evening on her way
home, called at the lodge, and told Polwarth where and in what condition
she had found Mrs. Faber, and what she had done with her; that she did
not think it the part of a friend to advise her return to her husband at
present; that she would not herself hear of returning; that she had no
comfort, and her life was a burden to her; and that she could not
possibly keep her concealed much longer, and did not know what next to
Polwarth answered only that he must make the acquaintance of Mrs. Faber.
If that could be effected, he believed he should be able to help them
out of their difficulties. Between them, therefore, they must arrange a
plan for his meeting her.
THE OLD GARDEN.
The next morning, Juliet, walking listlessly up and down the garden,
turned the corner of a yew hedge, and came suddenly upon a figure that
might well have appeared one of the kobolds of German legend. He was
digging slowly but steadily, crooning a strange song--so low that, until
she saw him she did not hear him.
She started back in dismay. The kobold neither raised his head nor
showed other sign than the ceasing of his song that he was aware of her
presence. Slowly and steadily he went on with his work. He was trenching
the ground deep, still throwing the earth from the bottom to the top.
Juliet, concluding he was deaf, and the ceasing of his song accidental,
turned softly, and would have retreated. But Polwarth, so far from being
deaf, heard better than most people. His senses, indeed, had been
sharpened by his infirmities--all but those of taste and smell, which
were fitful, now dull and now exquisitely keen. At the first movement
breaking the stillness into which consternation had cast her, he spoke.
"Can you guess what I am doing, Mrs. Faber?" he said, throwing up a
spadeful and a glance together, like a man who could spare no time from
Juliet's heart got in the way, and she could not answer him. She felt
much as a ghost, wandering through a house, might feel, if suddenly
addressed by the name she had borne in the old days, while yet she was
clothed in the garments of the flesh. Could it be that this man led such
a retired life that, although living so near Glaston, and seeing so many
at his gate, he had yet never heard that she had passed from the ken of
the living? Or could it be that Dorothy had betrayed her? She stood
quaking. The situation was strange. Before her was a man who did not
seem to know that what he knew concerning her was a secret from all the
world besides! And with that she had a sudden insight into the
consequence of the fact of her existence coming to her husband's
knowledge: would it not add to his contempt and scorn to know that she
was not even dead? Would he not at once conclude that she had been
contriving to work on his feelings, that she had been speculating on his
repentance, counting upon and awaiting such a return of his old
fondness, as would make him forget all her faults, and prepare him to
receive her again with delight?--But she must answer the creature! Ill
could she afford to offend him! But what was she to say? She had utterly
forgotten what he had said to her. She stood staring at him, unable to
speak. It was but for a few moments, but they were long as minutes. And
as she gazed, it seemed as if the strange being in the trench had dug
his way up from the lower parts of the earth, bringing her secret with
him, and come to ask her questions. What an earthy yet unearthly look he
had! Almost for the moment she believed the ancient rumors of other
races than those of mankind, that shared the earth with them, but led
such differently conditioned lives, that, in the course of ages, only a
scanty few of the unblending natures crossed each other's path, to stand
astare in mutual astonishment.
Polwarth went on digging, nor once looked up. After a little while he
resumed, in the most natural way, speaking as if he had known her well:
"Mr. Drake and I were talking, some weeks ago, about a certain curious
little old-fashioned flower in my garden at the back of the lodge. He
asked me if I could spare him a root of it. I told him I could spare him
any thing he would like to have, but that I would gladly give him every
flower in my garden, roots and all, if he would but let me dig three
yards square in his garden at the Old House, and have all that came up
of itself for a year."
He paused again. Juliet neither spoke nor moved. He dug rather feebly
for a gnome, with panting, asthmatic breath.
"Perhaps you are not aware, ma'am," he began again, and ceasing his
labor stood up leaning on the spade, which was nearly as high as
himself, "that many of the seeds which fall upon the ground do not grow,
yet, strange to tell, retain the power of growth. I suspect myself, but
have not had opportunity of testing the conjecture, that such fall in
their pods, or shells, and that before these are sufficiently decayed to
allow the sun and moisture and air to reach them, they have got covered
up in the soil too deep for those same influences. They say fishes a
long time bedded in ice will come to life again: I can not tell about
that, but it is well enough known that if you dig deep in any old
garden, such as this, ancient, perhaps forgotten flowers, will appear.
The fashion has changed, they have been neglected or uprooted, but all
the time their life is hid below. And the older they are, the nearer
perhaps to their primary idea!"
By this time she was far more composed, though not yet had she made up
her mind what to say, or how to treat the dilemma in which she found
After a brief pause therefore, he resumed again:
"I don't fancy," he said, with a low, asthmatic laugh, "that we shall
have many forgotten weeds come up. They all, I suspect, keep pretty well
in the sun. But just think how the fierce digging of the crisis to which
the great Husbandman every now and then leads a nation, brings back to
the surface its old forgotten flowers. What virtues, for instance, the
Revolution brought to light as even yet in the nature of the corrupted
nobility of France!"
"What a peculiar goblin it is!" thought Juliet, beginning to forget
herself a little in watching and listening to the strange creature. She
had often seen him before, but had always turned from him with a kind of
sympathetic shame: of course the poor creature could not bear to be
looked at; he must know himself improper!
"I have sometimes wondered," Polwarth yet again resumed, "whether the
troubles without end that some people seem born to--I do not mean those
they bring upon themselves--may not be as subsoil plows, tearing deep
into the family mold, that the seeds of the lost virtues of their race
may in them be once more brought within reach of sun and air and dew. It
would be a pleasant, hopeful thought if one might hold it. Would it not,
"It would indeed," answered Juliet with a sigh, which rose from an
undefined feeling that if some hidden virtue would come up in her, it
would be welcome. How many people would like to be good, if only they
might be good without taking trouble about it! They do not like goodness
well enough to hunger and thirst after it, or to sell all that they have
that they may buy it; they will not batter at the gate of the kingdom of
Heaven; but they look with pleasure on this or that aerial castle of
righteousness, and think it would be rather nice to live in it! They do
not know that it is goodness all the time their very being is pining
after, and that they are starving their nature of its necessary food.
Then Polwarth's idea turned itself round in Juliet's mind, and grew
clearer, but assumed reference to weeds only, and not flowers. She
thought how that fault of hers had, like the seed of a poison-plant,
been buried for years, unknown to one alive, and forgotten almost by
herself--so diligently forgotten indeed, that it seemed to have
gradually slipped away over the horizon of her existence; and now here
it was at the surface again in all its horror and old reality! nor that
merely, for already it had blossomed and borne its rightful fruit of
dismay--an evil pod, filled with a sickening juice, and swarming with
gray flies.--But she must speak, and, if possible, prevent the odd
creature from going and publishing in Glaston that he had seen Mrs.
Faber, and she was at the Old House.
"How did you know I was here?" she asked abruptly.
"How do you know that I knew, ma'am?" returned Polwarth, in a tone which
took from the words all appearance of rudeness.
"You were not in the least surprised to see me," she answered.
"A man," returned the dwarf, "who keeps his eyes open may almost cease
to be surprised at any thing. In my time I have seen so much that is
wonderful--in fact every thing seems to me so wonderful that I hardly
expect to be surprised any more."
He said this, desiring to provoke conversation. But Juliet took the
answer for an evasive one, and it strengthened her suspicion of Dorothy.
She was getting tired of her! Then there was only one thing left!--The
minor prophet had betaken himself again to his work, delving deeper, and
throwing slow spadeful after spadeful to the surface.
"Miss Drake told you I was here!" said Juliet.
"No, indeed, Mrs. Faber. No one told me," answered Polwarth. "I learned
it for myself. I could hardly help finding it out."
"Then--then--does every body know it?" she faltered, her heart sinking
within her at the thought.
"Indeed, ma'am, so far as I know, not a single person is aware you are
alive except Miss Drake and myself. I have not even told my niece who
lives with me, and who can keep a secret as well as myself."
Juliet breathed a great sigh of relief.
"Will you tell me why you have kept it so secret?" she asked.
"Because it was your secret, ma'am, not mine."
"But you were under no obligation to keep my secret."
"How do you justify such a frightful statement as that, ma'am?"
"Why, what could it matter to you?"
"I do not understand. You have no interest in me. You could have no
"On the contrary, I had the strongest inducement: I saw that an
opportunity might come of serving you."
"But that is just the unintelligible thing to me. There is no reason why
you should wish to serve me!" said Juliet, thinking to get at the bottom
of some design.
"There you mistake, ma'am. I am under the most absolute and imperative
obligation to serve you--the greatest under which any being can find
"What a ridiculous, crooked little monster!" said Juliet to herself. But
she began the same moment to think whether she might not turn the
creature's devotion to good account. She might at all events insure his
"Would you be kind enough to explain yourself?" she said, now also
interested in the continuance of the conversation.
"I would at once," replied Polwarth, "had I sufficient ground for hoping
you would understand my explanation."
"I do not know that I am particularly stupid," she returned, with a wan
"I have heard to the contrary," said Polwarth. "Yet I can not help
greatly doubting whether you will understand what I am now going to tell
you. For I will tell you--on the chance: I have no secrets--that is, of
my own.--I am one of those, Mrs. Faber," he went on after a moment's
pause, but his voice neither became more solemn in tone, nor did he
cease his digging, although it got slower, "who, against the
_non-evidence_ of their senses, believe there is a Master of men, the
one Master, a right perfect Man, who demands of them, and lets them know
in themselves the rectitude of the demand that they also shall be right
and true men, that is, true brothers to their brothers and sisters of
mankind. It is recorded too, and I believe it, that this Master said
that any service rendered to one of His people was rendered to Himself.
Therefore, for love of His will, even if I had no sympathy with you,
Mrs. Faber, I should feel bound to help you. As you can not believe me
interested in yourself, I must tell you that to betray your secret for
the satisfaction of a love of gossip, would be to sin against my highest
joy, against my own hope, against the heart of God, from which your
being and mine draws the life of its every moment."
Juliet's heart seemed to turn sick at the thought of such a creature
claiming brotherhood with her. That it gave ground for such a claim,
seemed for the moment an irresistible argument against the existence of
In her countenance Polwarth read at once that he had blundered, and a
sad, noble, humble smile irradiated his. It had its effect on Juliet.
She would be generous and forgive his presumption: she knew dwarfs were
always conceited--that wise Nature had provided them with high thoughts
wherewith to add the missing cubit to their stature. What repulsive
things Christianity taught! Her very flesh recoiled from the poor ape!
"I trust you are satisfied, ma'am," the kobold added, after a moment's
vain expectation of a word from Juliet, "that your secret is safe with
"I am," answered Juliet, with a condescending motion of her stately
neck, saying to herself in feeling if not in conscious thought,--"After
all he is hardly human! I may accept his devotion as I would that of a
The moment she had thus far yielded, she began to long to speak of her
husband. Perhaps he can tell her something of him! At least he could
talk about him. She would have been eager to look on his reflection, had
it been possible, in the mind of a dog that loved him. She would turn
the conversation in a direction that might find him.
"But I do not see," she went on, "how you, Mr. Polwarth--I think that is
your name--how you can, consistently with your principles,--"
"Excuse me, ma'am: I can not even, by silence, seem to admit that you
know any thing whatever of my principles."
"Oh!" she returned, with a smile of generous confession, "I was brought
up to believe as you do."
"That but satisfies me that for the present you are incapable of knowing
any thing of my principles."
"I do not wonder at your thinking so," she returned, with the
condescension of superior education, as she supposed, and yet with the
first motion of an unconscious respect for the odd little monster.--He,
with wheezing chest, went on throwing up the deep, damp, fresh earth, to
him smelling of marvelous things. Ruth would have ached all over to see
him working so hard!--"Still," Juliet went on, "supposing your judgment
of me correct, that only makes it the stranger you should imagine that
in serving such a one, you are pleasing Him you call your Master. He
says whosoever denies Him before men He will deny before the angels of
"What my Lord says He will do, He will do, as He meant it when He said
it: what He tells me to do, I try to understand and do. Now He has told
me of all things not to say that good comes of evil. He condemned that
in the Pharisees as the greatest of crimes. When, therefore, I see a man
like your husband, helping his neighbors near and far, being kind,
indeed loving, and good-hearted to all men,"--Here a great sigh, checked
and broken into many little ones, came in a tremulous chain from the
bosom of the wife--"I am bound to say that man is not scattering his
Master abroad. He is indeed opposing Him in words: he speaks against the
Son of Man; but that the Son of Man Himself says shall be forgiven him.
If I mistake in this, to my own Master I stand or fall."
"How can He be his Master if he does not acknowledge Him?"
"Because the very tongue with which he denies Him is yet His. I am the
master of the flowers that will now grow by my labor, though not one of
them will know me--how much more must He be the Master of the men He
has called into being, though they do not acknowledge Him! If the story
of the gospel be a true one, as with my heart and soul and all that is
in me I believe it is, then Jesus of Nazareth is Lord and Master of Mr.
Faber, and for him not to acknowledge it is to fall from the summit of
his being. To deny one's Master, is to be a slave."
"You are very polite!" said Mrs. Faber, and turned away. She recalled
her imaginary danger, however, and turning again, said, "But though I
differ from you in opinion, Mr. Polwarth, I quite recognize you as no
common man, and put you upon your honor with regard to my secret."
"Had you entrusted me with your secret, ma'am, the phrase would have had
more significance. But, obeying my Master, I do not require to think of
my own honor. Those who do not acknowledge their Master, can not afford
to forget it. But if they do not learn to obey Him, they will find by
the time they have got through what they call life, they have left
themselves little honor to boast of."
"He has guessed my real secret!" thought poor Juliet, and turning away
in confusion, without a word of farewell, went straight into the house.
But before Dorothy, who had been on the watch at the top of the slope,
came in, she had begun to hope that the words of the forward,
disagreeable, conceited dwarf had in them nothing beyond a general
When Dorothy entered, she instantly accused her of treachery. Dorothy,
repressing her indignation, begged she would go with her to Polwarth.
But when they reached the spot, the gnome had vanished.
He had been digging only for the sake of the flowers buried in Juliet,
and had gone home to lie down. His bodily strength was exhausted, but
will and faith and purpose never forsook the soul cramped up in that
distorted frame. When greatly suffering, he would yet suffer with his
will--not merely resigning himself to the will of God, but desiring the
suffering that God willed. When the wearied soul could no longer keep
the summit of the task, when not strength merely, but the consciousness
of faith and duty failed him, he would cast faith and strength and duty,
all his being, into the gulf of the Father's will, and simply suffer, no
longer trying to feel any thing--waiting only until the Life should send
Dorothy turned to Juliet.
"You might have asked Mr. Polwarth, Juliet, whether I had betrayed
you," she said.
"Now I think of it, he did say you had not told him. But how was I to
take the word of a creature like that?"
"Juliet," said Dorothy, very angry, "I begin to doubt if you were worth
taking the trouble for!"
She turned from her, and walked toward the house. Juliet rushed after
her and caught her in her arms.
"Forgive me, Dorothy," she cried. "I am not in my right senses, I do
believe. What _is_ to be done now this--man knows it?"
"Things are no worse than they were," said Dorothy, as quickly appeased
as angered. "On the contrary, I believe we have the only one to help us
who is able to do it. Why, Juliet, why what am I to do with you when my
father sends the carpenters and bricklayers to the house? They will be
into every corner! He talks of commencing next week, and I am at my
"Oh! don't forsake me, Dorothy, after all you have done for me," cried
Juliet. "If you turn me out, there never was creature in the world so
forlorn as I shall be--absolutely helpless, Dorothy!"
"I will do all I can for you, my poor Juliet; but if Mr. Polwarth do not
think of some way, I don't know what will become of us. You don't know
what you are guilty of in despising him. Mr. Wingfold speaks of him as
far the first man in Glaston."
Certainly Mr. Wingfold, Mr. Drew, and some others of the best men in the
place, did think him, of those they knew, the greatest in the kingdom of
Heaven. Glaston was altogether of a different opinion. Which was the
right opinion, must be left to the measuring rod that shall finally be
applied to the statures of men.
The history of the kingdom of Heaven--need I say I mean a very different
thing from what is called _church-history?_--is the only history that
will ever be able to show itself a history--that can ever come to be
thoroughly written, or to be read with a clear understanding; for it
alone will prove able to explain itself, while in doing so it will
explain all other attempted histories as well. Many of those who will
then be found first in the eternal record, may have been of little
regard in the eyes of even their religious contemporaries, may have been
absolutely unknown to generations that came after, and were yet the men
of life and potency, working as light, as salt, as leaven, in the
world. When the real worth of things is, over all, the measure of their
estimation, then is the kingdom of our God and His Christ.
It had been a very dry autumn, and the periodical rains had been long
delayed, so that the minister had been able to do much for the houses he
had bought, called the Pottery. There had been but just rain enough to
reveal the advantage of the wall he had built to compel the water to
keep the wider street. Thoroughly dry and healthy it was impossible to
make them, at least in the time; but it is one thing to have the water
all about the place you stand on, and another to be up to the knees in
it. Not at that point only, however, but at every spot where the water
could enter freely, he had done what he could provisionally for the
defense of his poor colony--for alas! how much among the well-to-do, in
town or city, are the poor like colonists only!--and he had great hopes
of the result. Stone and brick and cement he had used freely, and one or
two of the people about began to have a glimmering idea of the use of
money after a gospel fashion--that is, for thorough work where and
_because_ it was needed. The curate was full of admiration and sympathy.
But the whole thing gave great dissatisfaction to others not a few. For,
as the currents of inundation would be somewhat altered in direction and
increased in force by his obstructions, it became necessary for several
others also to add to the defenses of their property, and this of course
was felt to be a grievance. Their personal inconveniences were like the
shilling that hides the moon, and, in the resentment they occasioned,
blinded their hearts to the seriousness of the evils from which their
merely temporary annoyance was the deliverance of their neighbors. A
fancy of prescriptive right in their own comforts outweighed all the
long and heavy sufferings of the others. Why should not their neighbors
continue miserable, when they had been miserable all their lives
hitherto? Those who, on the contrary, had been comfortable all their
lives, and liked it so much, ought to continue comfortable--even at
their expense. Why not let well alone? Or if people would be so
unreasonable as to want to be comfortable too, when nobody cared a straw
about them, let them make themselves comfortable without annoying those
superior beings who had been comfortable all the time!--Persons who,
consciously or unconsciously, reason thus, would do well to read with a
little attention the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, wherein it
seems recognized that a man's having been used to a thing may be just
the reason, not for the continuance, but for the alteration of his
condition. In the present case the person who most found himself
aggrieved, was the dishonest butcher. A piece of brick wall which the
minister had built in contact with the wall of his yard, would
indubitably cause such a rise in the water at the descent into the area
of his cellar, that, in order to its protection in a moderate flood--in
a great one the cellar was always filled--the addition to its defense of
two or three more rows of bricks would be required, carrying a
correspondent diminution of air and light. It is one of the punishments
overtaking those who wrong their neighbors, that not only do they feel
more keenly than others any injury done to themselves, but they take
many things for injuries that do not belong to the category. It was but
a matter of a few shillings at the most, but the man who did not scruple
to charge the less careful of his customers for undelivered ounces,
gathering to pounds and pounds of meat, resented bitterly the necessity
of the outlay. He knew, or ought to have known, that he had but to
acquaint the minister with the fact, to have the thing set right at
once; but the minister had found him out, and he therefore much
preferred the possession of his grievance to its removal. To his friends
he regretted that a minister of the gospel should be so corrupted by the
mammon of unrighteousness as to use it against members of his own
church: that, he said, was not the way to make friends with it. But on
the pretense of a Christian spirit, he avoided showing Mr. Drake any
sign of his resentment; for the face of his neighbors shames a man whose
heart condemns him but shames him not. He restricted himself to
grumbling, and brooded to counterplot the mischiefs of the minister.
What right had he to injure him for the sake of the poor? Was it not
written in the Bible: Thou shall not favor the poor man in his cause?
Was it not written also: For every man shall bear his own burden? That
was common sense! He did his share in supporting the poor that were
church-members, but was he to suffer for improvements on Drake's
property for the sake of a pack of roughs! Let him be charitable at his
own cost! etc., etc. Self is prolific in argument.
It suited Mr. Drake well, notwithstanding his church republican
theories, against which, in the abstract, I could ill object, seeing the
whole current of Bible teaching is toward the God-inspired ideal
commonwealth--it suited a man like Mr. Drake well, I say, to be an
autocrat, and was a most happy thing for his tenants, for certainly no
other system of government than a wise autocracy will serve in regard to
the dwellings of the poor. And already, I repeat, he had effected not a
little. Several new cottages had been built, and one incorrigible old
one pulled down. But it had dawned upon him that, however desirable it
might be on a dry hill-side, on such a foundation as this a cottage was
the worst form of human dwelling that could be built. For when the whole
soil was in time of rain like a full sponge, every room upon it was
little better than a hollow in a cloud, and the right thing must be to
reduce contact with the soil as much as possible. One high house,
therefore, with many stories, and stone feet to stand upon, must be the
proper kind of building for such a situation. He must lift the first
house from the water, and set as many more houses as convenient upon it.
He had therefore already so far prepared for the building of such a
house as should lift a good many families far above all deluge; that is,
he had dug the foundation, and deep, to get at the more solid ground. In
this he had been precipitate, as not unfrequently in his life; for while
he was yet meditating whether he should not lay the foundation
altogether solid, of the unporous stone of the neighborhood, the rains
began, and there was the great hole, to stand all the winter full of
water, in the middle of the cottages!
The weather cleared again, but after a St. Martin's summer unusually
prolonged, the rain came down in terrible earnest. Day after day, the
clouds condensed, grew water, and poured like a squeezed sponge. A wet
November indeed it was--wet overhead--wet underfoot--wet all round! and
the rivers rose rapidly.
When the Lythe rose beyond a certain point, it overflowed into a hollow,
hardly a valley, and thereby a portion of it descended almost straight
to Glaston. Hence it came that in a flood the town was invaded both by
the rise of the river from below, and by this current from above, on its
way to rejoin the main body of it, and the streets were soon turned into
canals. The currents of the slowly swelling river and of its temporary
branch then met in Pine street, and formed not a very rapid, but a heavy
run at ebb tide; for Glaston, though at some distance from the mouth of
the river, measuring by its course, was not far from the sea, which was
visible across the green flats, a silvery line on the horizon. Landward,
beyond the flats, high ground rose on all sides, and hence it was that
the floods came down so deep upon Glaston.
On a certain Saturday it rained all the morning heavily, but toward the
afternoon cleared a little, so that many hoped the climax had been
reached, while the more experienced looked for worse. After sunset the
clouds gathered thicker than before, and the rain of the day was as
nothing to the torrent descending with a steady clash all night. When
the slow, dull morning came Glaston stood in the middle of a brown lake,
into which water was rushing from the sky in straight, continuous lines.
The prospect was discomposing. Some, too confident in the apparent
change, had omitted needful precautions, in most parts none were now
possible, and in many more none would have been of use. Most cellars
were full, and the water was rising on the ground-floors. It was a very
different affair from a flood in a mountainous country, but serious
enough, though without immediate danger to life. Many a person that
morning stepped out of bed up to the knee in muddy water.
With the first of the dawn the curate stood peering from the window of
his dressing-room, through the water that coursed down the pane, to
discover the state of the country; for the window looked inland from the
skirt of the town. All was gray mist, brown water, and sheeting rain.
The only things clear were that not a soul would be at church that
morning, and that, though he could do nothing to divide them the bread
needful for their souls, he might do something for some of their bodies.
It was a happy thing it was Sunday, for, having laid in their stock of
bread the day before, people were not so dependent on the bakers, half
whose ovens must now be full of water. But most of the kitchens must be
flooded, he reasoned, the fire-wood soaking, and the coal in some
cellars inaccessible. The very lucifer-matches in many houses would be
as useless as the tinderbox of a shipwrecked sailor. And if the rain
were to cease at once the water would yet keep rising for many hours. He
turned from the window, took his bath in homoeopathic preparation, and
then went to wake his wife.
She was one of those blessed women who always open their eyes smiling.
She owed very little of her power of sympathy to personal suffering; the
perfection of her health might have made one who was too anxious for her
spiritual growth even a little regretful. Her husband therefore had
seldom to think of sparing her when any thing had to be done. She could
lose a night's sleep without the smallest injury, and stand fatigue
better than most men; and in the requirements of the present necessity
there would be mingled a large element of adventure, almost of frolic,
full of delight to a vigorous organization.
"What a good time of it the angels of wind and flame must have!" said
the curate to himself as he went to wake her. "What a delight to be
embodied as a wind, or a flame, or a rushing sea!--Come, Helen, my help!
Glaston wants you," he said softly in her ear.
She started up.
"What is it, Thomas?" she said, holding her eyes wider open than was
needful, to show him she was capable.
"Nothing to frighten you, darling," he answered, "but plenty to be done.
The river is out, and the people are all asleep. Most of them will have
to wait for their breakfast, I fear. We shall have no prayers this
"But plenty of divine service," rejoined Helen, with a smile for what
her aunt called one of his whims, as she got up and seized some of her
"Take time for your bath, dear," said her husband.
"There will be time for that afterward," she replied. "What shall I do
"Wake the servants, and tell them to light the kitchen fire, and make
all the tea and coffee they can. But tell them to make it good. We shall
get more of every thing as soon as it is light. I'll go and bring the
boat. I had it drawn up and moored in the ruins ready to float
yesterday. I wish I hadn't put on my shirt though: I shall have to swim
for it, I fear."
"I shall have one aired before you come back," said Helen.
"Aired!" returned her husband: "you had better say watered. In five
minutes neither of us will have a dry stitch on. I'll take it off again,
and be content with my blue jersey."
He hurried out into the rain. Happily there was no wind.
Helen waked the servants. Before they appeared she had the fire lighted,
and as many utensils as it would accommodate set upon it with water.
When Wingfold returned, he found her in the midst of her household,
busily preparing every kind of eatable and drinkable they could lay
He had brought his boat to the church yard and moored it between two
headstones: they would have their breakfast first, for there was no
saying when they might get any lunch, and food is work. Besides, there
was little to be gained by rousing people out of their good sleep: there
was no danger yet.
"It is a great comfort," said the curate, as he drank his coffee, "to
see how Drake goes in heart and soul for his tenants. He is pompous--a
little, and something of a fine gentleman, but what is that beside his
great truth! That work of his is the simplest act of Christianity of a
public kind I have ever seen!"
"But is there not a great change on him since he had his money?" said
Helen. "He seems to me so much humbler in his carriage and simpler in
his manners than before."
"It is quite true," replied her husband. "It is mortifying to think," he
went on after a little pause, "how many of our clergy, from mere
beggarly pride, holding their rank superior--as better accredited
servants of the Carpenter of Nazareth, I suppose--would look down on
that man as a hedge-parson. The world they court looked down upon
themselves from a yet greater height once, and may come to do so again.
Perhaps the sooner the better, for then they will know which to choose.
Now they serve Mammon and think they serve God."
"It is not quite so bad as that, surely!" said Helen.
"If it is not worldly pride, what is it? I do not think it is spiritual
pride. Few get on far enough to be much in danger of that worst of all
vices. It must then be church-pride, and that is the worst form of
worldly pride, for it is a carrying into the kingdom of Heaven of the
habits and judgments of the kingdom of Satan. I am wrong! such things
can not be imported into the kingdom of Heaven: they can only be
imported into the Church, which is bad enough. Helen, the churchman's
pride is a thing to turn a saint sick with disgust, so utterly is it at
discord with the lovely human harmony he imagines himself the minister
of. He is the Pharisee, it may be the good Pharisee, of the kingdom of
Heaven; but if the proud churchman be in the kingdom at all, it must be
as one of the least in it. I don't believe one in ten who is guilty of
this pride is aware of the sin of it. Only the other evening I heard a
worthy canon say, it may have been more in joke than appeared, that he
would have all dissenters burned. Now the canon would not hang one of
them--but he does look down on them all with contempt. Such miserable
paltry weaknesses and wickednesses, for in a servant of the Kingdom the
feeling which suggests such a speech is wicked, are the moth holes in
the garments of the Church, the teredo in its piles, the dry rot in its
floors, the scaling and crumbling of its buttresses. They do more to
ruin what such men call the Church, even in outward respects, than any
of the rude attacks of those whom they thus despise. He who, in the name
of Christ, pushes his neighbor from him, is a schismatic, and that of
the worst and only dangerous type! But we had better be going. It's of
no use telling you to take your waterproof; you'd only be giving it to
the first poor woman we picked up."
"I may as well have the good of it till then," said Helen, and ran to
fetch it, while the curate went to bring his boat to the house.
When he opened the door, there was no longer a spot of earth or of sky
to be seen--only water, and the gray sponge filling the upper air,
through which coursed multitudinous perpendicular runnels of water. Clad
in a pair of old trowsers and a jersey, he went wading, and where the
ground dipped, swimming, to the western gate of the churchyard. In a few
minutes he was at the kitchen window, holding the boat in a long
painter, for the water, although quite up to the rectory walls, was not
yet deep enough there to float the boat with any body in it. The
servants handed him out the great cans they used at school-teas, full of
hot coffee, and baskets of bread, and he placed them in the boat,
covering them with a tarpaulin. Then Helen appeared at the door, in her
waterproof, with a great fur-cloak--to throw over him, she said, when
she took the oars, for she meant to have her share of the fun: it was so
seldom there was any going on a Sunday!--How she would have shocked her
aunt, and better women than she!
"To-day," said the curate, "we shall praise God with the _mirth_ of the
good old hundredth psalm, and not with the _fear_ of the more modern
As he spoke he bent to his oars, and through a narrow lane the boat soon
shot into Pine-street--now a wide canal, banked with houses dreary and
dead, save where, from an upper window, peeped out here and there a
sleepy, dismayed countenance. In silence, except for the sounds of the
oars, and the dull rush of water everywhere, they slipped along.
"This _is_ fun!" said Helen, where she sat and steered.
"Very quiet fun as yet," answered the curate. "But it will get faster by
As often as he saw any one at a window, he called out that tea and
coffee would be wanted for many a poor creature's breakfast. But here
they were all big houses, and he rowed swiftly past them, for his
business lay, not where there were servants and well-stocked larders,
but where there were mothers and children and old people, and little but
water besides. Nor had they left Pine street by many houses before they
came where help was right welcome. Down the first turning a miserable
cottage stood three feet deep in the water. Out jumped the curate with
the painter in his hand, and opened the door.
On the bed, over the edge of which the water was lapping, sat a sickly
young woman in her night-dress, holding her baby to her bosom. She
stared for a moment with big eyes, then looked down, and said nothing;
but a rose-tinge mounted from her heart to her pale cheek.
"Good morning, Martha!" said the curate cheerily. "Rather damp--ain't
it? Where's your husband?"
"Away looking for work, sir," answered Martha, in a hopeless tone.
"Then he won't miss you. Come along. Give me the baby."
"I can't come like this, sir. I ain't got no clothes on."
"Take them with you. You can't put them on: they're all wet. Mrs.
Wingfold is in the boat: she'll see to every thing you want. The door's
hardly wide enough to let the boat through, or I'd pull it close up to
the bed for you to get in."
"Come along," he repeated. "I won't look at you. Or wait--I'll take the
baby, and come back for you. Then you won't get so wet."
He took the baby from her arms, and turned to the door.
"It ain't you as I mind, sir," said Martha, getting into the water at
once and following him, "--no more'n my own people; but all the town'll
be at the windows by this time."
"Never mind; we'll see to you," he returned.
In half a minute more, with the help of the windowsill, she was in the
boat, the fur-cloak wrapped about her and the baby, drinking the first
cup of the hot coffee.
"We must take her home at once," said the curate.
"You said we should have fun!" said Helen, the tears rushing into her
She had left the tiller, and, while the mother drank her coffee, was
patting the baby under the cloak. But she had to betake herself to the
tiller again, for the curate was not rowing straight.
When they reached the rectory, the servants might all have been
grandmothers from the way they received the woman and her child.
"Give them a warm bath together," said Helen, "as quickly as
possible.--And stay, let me out, Thomas--I must go and get Martha some
clothes. I shan't be a minute."
The next time they returned, Wingfold, looking into the kitchen, could
hardly believe the sweet face he saw by the fire, so refined in its
comforted sadness, could be that of Martha. He thought whether the fine
linen, clean and white, may not help the righteousness even of the
saints a little.
Their next take was a boat-load of children and an old grandmother. Most
of the houses had a higher story, and they took only those who had no
refuge. Many more, however, drank of their coffee and ate of their
bread. The whole of the morning they spent thus, calling, on their
passages, wherever they thought they could get help or find
accommodation. By noon a score of boats were out rendering similar
assistance. The water was higher than it had been for many years, and
was still rising. Faber had laid hands upon an old tub of a
salmon-coble, and was the first out after the curate. But there was no
fun in the poor doctor's boat. Once the curate's and his met in the
middle of Pine street--both as full of people as they could carry.
Wingfold and Helen greeted Faber frankly and kindly. He returned their
greeting with solemn courtesy, rowing heavily past.
By lunch-time, Helen had her house almost full, and did not want to go
again: there was so much to be done! But her husband persuaded her to
give him one hour more: the servants were doing so well! he said. She
yielded. He rowed her to the church, taking up the sexton and his boy on
their way. There the crypts and vaults were full of water. Old
wood-carvings and bits of ancient coffins were floating about in them.
But the floor of the church was above the water: he landed Helen dry in
the porch, and led her to the organ-loft. Now the organ was one of great
power; seldom indeed, large as the church was, did they venture its full
force: he requested her to pull out every stop, and send the voice of
the church, in full blast, into every corner of Glaston. He would come
back for her in half an hour and take her home. He desired the sexton to
leave all the doors open, and remember that the instrument would want
every breath of wind he and his boy could raise.
He had just laid hold of his oars, when out of the porch rushed a roar
of harmony that seemed to seize his boat and blow it away upon its
mission like a feather--for in the delight of the music the curate never
felt the arms that urged it swiftly along. After him it came pursuing,
and wafted him mightily on. Over the brown waters it went rolling, a
grand billow of innumerable involving and involved waves. He thought of
the spirit of God that moved on the face of the primeval waters, and out
of a chaos wrought a cosmos. "Would," he said to himself, "that ever
from the church door went forth such a spirit of harmony and healing of
peace and life! But the church's foes are they of her own household, who
with the axes and hammers of pride and exclusiveness and vulgar
priestliness, break the carved work of her numberless chapels, yea,
build doorless screens from floor to roof, dividing nave and choir and
chancel and transepts and aisles into sections numberless, and, with the
evil dust they raise, darken for ages the windows of her clerestory!"
The curate was thinking of no party, but of individual spirit. Of the
priestliness I have encountered, I can not determine whether the worse
belonged to the Church of England or a certain body of Dissenters.
Mr Bevis had his horses put to, then taken away again, and an old hunter
saddled. But half-way from home he came to a burst bridge, and had to
return, much to the relief of his wife, who, when she had him in the
house again, could enjoy the rain, she said: it was so cosey and
comfortable to feel you could not go out, or any body call. I presume
she therein seemed to take a bond of fate, and doubly assure the
every-day dullness of her existence. Well, she was a good creature, and
doubtless a corner would be found for her up above, where a little more
work would probably be required of her.
Polwarth and his niece Ruth rose late, for neither had slept well. When
they had breakfasted, they read together from the Bible: first the uncle
read the passage he had last got light upon--he was always getting light
upon passages, and then the niece the passage she had last been
gladdened by; after which they sat and chatted a long time by the
"I am afraid your asthma was bad last night, uncle dear," said Ruth. "I
heard your breathing every time I woke."
"It was, rather," answered the little man, "but I took my revenge, and
had a good crow over it."
"I know what you mean, uncle: do let me hear the crow."
He rose, and slowly climbing the stair to his chamber, returned with a
half sheet of paper in his hand, resumed his seat, and read the
following lines, which he had written in pencil when the light came:
Nay, take thine hour;
Thou canst not daunt,
Thou hast no power;
Be welcome to thy nest,
Though it be in my breast.
Dig like a mole;
Fill every vein
With half-burned coal;
Puff the keen dust about,
And all to choke me out.
Fill music's ways
With creaking cries,
That no loud praise
May climb the skies;
And on my laboring chest
Lay mountains of unrest.
My slumber steep
In dreams of haste,
That only sleep,
No rest I taste--
With stiflings, rimes of rote,
And fingers on the throat.
Satan, thy might
I do defy;
Live core of night,
I patient lie:
A wind comes up the gray
Will blow thee clean away.
Christ's angel, Death,
All radiant white,
With one cold breath
Will scare thee quite,
And give my lungs an air
As fresh as answered prayer.
So, Satan, do
Thy worst with me,
Until the True
Shall set me free,
And end what He began,
By making me a man.
"It is not much of poetry, Ruth!" he said, raising his eyes from the
paper; "--no song of thrush or blackbird! I am ashamed that I called it
a cock-crow--for that is one of the finest things in the world--a
clarion defiance to darkness and sin--far too good a name for my poor
jingle--except, indeed, you call it a Cochin-china-cock-crow--from out a
very wheezy chest!"
"'My strength is made perfect in weakness,'" said Ruth solemnly,
heedless of the depreciation. To her the verses were as full of meaning
as if she had made them herself.
"I think I like the older reading better--that is, without the _My_,"
said Polwarth: "'Strength is made perfect in weakness.' Somehow--I can
not explain the feeling--to hear a grand aphorism, spoken in widest
application, as a fact of more than humanity, of all creation, from the
mouth of the human God, the living Wisdom, seems to bring me close to
the very heart of the universe. Strength--strength itself--all over--is
made perfect in weakness;--a law of being, you see, Ruth! not a law of
Christian growth only, but a law of growth, even all the growth leading
up to the Christian, which growth is the highest kind of creation. The
Master's own strength was thus perfected, and so must be that of His
brothers and sisters. Ah, what a strength must be his!--how patient in
endurance--how gentle in exercise--how mighty in devotion--how fine in
its issues,-perfected by such suffering! Ah, my child, you suffer sorely
sometimes--I know it well! but shall we not let patience have her
perfect work, that we may--one day, Ruth, one day, my child--be perfect
and entire, wanting nothing?"
Led by the climax of his tone, Ruth slipped from her stool on her knees.
Polwarth kneeled beside her, and said:
"O Father of life, we praise Thee that one day Thou wilt take Thy poor
crooked creatures, and give them bodies like Christ's, perfect as His,
and full of Thy light. Help us to grow faster--as fast as Thou canst
help us to grow. Help us to keep our eyes on the opening of Thy hand,
that we may know the manna when it comes. O Lord, we rejoice that we are
Thy making, though Thy handiwork is not very clear in our outer man as
yet. We bless Thee that we feel Thy hand making us. What if it be in
pain! Evermore we hear the voice of the potter above the hum and grind
of his wheel. Father, Thou only knowest how we love Thee. Fashion the
clay to Thy beautiful will. To the eyes of men we are vessels of
dishonor, but we know Thou dost not despise us, for Thou hast made us,
and Thou dwellest with us. Thou hast made us love Thee, and hope in
Thee, and in Thy love we will be brave and endure. All in good time, O
While they thus prayed, kneeling on the stone floor of the little
kitchen, dark under the universal canopy of cloud, the rain went on
clashing and murmuring all around, rushing from the eaves, and
exploding with sharp hisses in the fire, and in the mingled noise they
had neither heard a low tap, several times repeated, nor the soft
opening of the door that followed. When they rose from their knees, it
was therefore with astonishment they saw a woman standing motionless in
the doorway, without cloak or bonnet, her dank garments clinging to her
form and dripping with rain.
When Juliet woke that morning, she cared little that the sky was dull
and the earth dark. A selfish sorrow, a selfish love even, makes us
stupid, and Juliet had been growing more and more stupid. Many people,
it seems to me, through sorrow endured perforce and without a gracious
submission, slowly sink in the scale of existence. Such are some of
those middle-aged women, who might be the very strength of social
well-being, but have no aspiration, and hope only downward--after rich
husbands for their daughters, it may be--a new bonnet or an old
coronet--the devil knows what.
Bad as the weather had been the day before, Dorothy had yet contrived to
visit her, and see that she was provided with every necessary; and
Juliet never doubted she would come that day also. She thought of
Dorothy's ministrations as we so often do of God's--as of things that
come of themselves, for which there is no occasion to be thankful.
When she had finished the other little house-work required for her
comfort, a labor in which she found some little respite from the
gnawings of memory and the blankness of anticipation, she ended by
making up a good fire, though without a thought of Dorothy's being wet
when she arrived, and sitting down by the window, stared out at the
pools, spreading wider and wider on the gravel walks beneath her. She
sat till she grew chilly, then rose and dropped into an easy chair by
the fire, and fell fast asleep.
She slept a long time, and woke in a terror, seeming to have waked
herself with a cry. The fire was out, and the hearth cold. She shivered
and drew her shawl about her. Then suddenly she remembered the frightful
dream she had had.
She dreamed that she had just fled from her husband and gained the park,
when, the moment she entered it, something seized her from behind, and
bore her swiftly, as in the arms of a man--only she seemed to hear the
rush of wings behind her--the way she had been going. She struggled in
terror, but in vain; the power bore her swiftly on, and she knew
whither. Her very being recoiled from the horrible depth of the
motionless pool, in which, as she now seemed to know, lived one of the
loathsome creatures of the semi-chaotic era of the world, which had
survived its kind as well as its coevals, and was ages older than the
human race. The pool appeared--but not as she had known it, for it
boiled and heaved, bubbled and rose. From its lowest depths it was moved
to meet and receive her! Coil upon coil it lifted itself into the air,
towering like a waterspout, then stretched out a long, writhing,
shivering neck to take her from the invisible arms that bore her to her
doom. The neck shot out a head, and the head shot out the tongue of a
water-snake. She shrieked and woke, bathed in terror.
With the memory of the dream not a little of its horror returned; she
rose to shake it off, and went to the window. What did she see there?
The fearsome pool had entered the garden, had come half-way to the
house, and was plainly rising every moment. More or less the pool had
haunted her ever since she came; she had seldom dared go nearer it than
half-way down the garden. But for the dulling influence of her misery,
it would have been an unendurable horror to her, now it was coming to
fetch her as she had seen it in her warning dream! Her brain reeled; for
a moment she gazed paralyzed with horror, then turned from the window,
and, with almost the conviction that the fiend of her vision was
pursuing her, fled from the house, and across the park, through the
sheets of rain, to the gate-lodge, nor stopped until, all unaware of
having once thought of him in her terror, she stood at the door of
Ruth was darting toward her with outstretched hands, when her uncle
"Ruth, my child," he said, "run and light a fire in the parlor. I will
welcome our visitor."
She turned instantly, and left the room. Then Polwarth went up to
Juliet, who stood trembling, unable to utter a word, and said, with
perfect old-fashioned courtesy, "You are heartily welcome, ma'am. I sent
Ruth away that I might first assure you that you are as safe with her as
with me. Sit here a moment, ma'am. You are so wet, I dare not place you
nearer to the fire.--Ruth!"
She came instantly.
"Ruth," he repeated, "this lady is Mrs. Faber. She is come to visit us
for a while. Nobody must know of it.--You need not be at all uneasy,
Mrs. Faber. Not a soul will come near us to-day. But I will lock the
door, to secure time, if any one should.--You will get Mrs. Faber's room
ready at once, Ruth. I will come and help you. But a spoonful of brandy
in hot water first, please.--Let me move your chair a little, ma'am--out
of the draught."
Juliet in silence did every thing she was told, received the prescribed
antidote from Ruth, and was left alone in the kitchen.
But the moment she was freed from one dread, she was seized by another;
suspicion took the place of terror; and as soon as she heard the toiling
of the goblins up the creaking staircase, she crept to the foot of it
after them, and with no more compunction than a princess in a
fairy-tale, set herself to listen. It was not difficult, for the little
inclosed staircase carried every word to the bottom of it.
"I _thought_ she wasn't dead!" she heard Ruth exclaim joyfully; and the
words and tone set her wondering.
"I saw you did not seem greatly astonished at the sight of her; but what
made you think such an unlikely thing?" rejoined her uncle.
"I saw you did not believe she was dead. That was enough for me."
"You are a witch, Ruth! I never said a word one way or the other."
"Which showed that you were thinking, and made me think. You had
something in your mind which you did not choose to tell me yet."
"Ah, child!" rejoined her uncle, in a solemn tone, "how difficult it is
to hide any thing! I don't think God wants any thing hidden. The light
is His region, His kingdom, His palace-home. It can only be evil,
outside or in, that makes us turn from the fullest light of the
universe. Truly one must be born again to enter into the kingdom!"
Juliet heard every word, heard and was bewildered. The place in which
she had sought refuge was plainly little better than a kobold-cave, yet
merely from listening to the talk of the kobolds without half
understanding it, she had begun already to feel a sense of safety
stealing over her, such as she had never been for an instant aware of in
the Old House, even with Dorothy beside her.
They went on talking, and she went on listening. They were so much her
inferiors there could be no impropriety in doing so!
"The poor lady," she heard the man-goblin say, "has had some difference
with her husband; but whether she wants to hide from him or from the
whole world or from both, she only can tell. Our business is to take
care of her, and do for her what God may lay to our hand. What she
desires to hide, is sacred to us. We have no secrets of our own, Ruth,
and have the more room for those of other people who are unhappy enough
to have any. Let God reveal what He pleases: there are many who have no
right to know what they most desire to know. She needs nursing, poor
thing! We will pray to God for her."
"But how shall we make her comfortable in such a poor little house?"
returned Ruth. "It is the dearest place in the world to me--but how will
she feel in it?"
"We will keep her warm and clean," answered her uncle, "and that is all
an angel would require."
"An angel!--yes," answered Ruth: "for angels don't eat; or, at least, if
they do, for I doubt if you will grant that they don't, I am certain
that they are not so hard to please as some people down here. The poor,
dear lady is delicate--you know she has always been--and I am not much
of a cook."
"You are a very good cook, my dear. Perhaps you do not know a great many
dishes, but you are a dainty cook of those you do know. Few people can
have more need than we to be careful what they eat,--we have got such a
pair of troublesome cranky little bodies; and if you can suit them, I
feel sure you will be able to suit any invalid that is not fastidious by
nature rather than necessity."
"I will do my best," said Ruth cheerily, comforted by her uncle's
confidence. "The worst is that, for her own sake, I must not get a girl
to help me."
"The lady will help you with her own room," said Polwarth. "I have a
shrewd notion that it is only the _fine_ ladies, those that are so
little of ladies that they make so much of being ladies, who mind doing
things with their own hands. Now you must go and make her some tea,
while she gets in bed. She is sure to like tea best."
Juliet retreated noiselessly, and when the woman-gnome entered the
kitchen, there sat the disconsolate lady where she had left her, still
like the outcast princess of a fairy-tale: she had walked in at the
door, and they had immediately begun to arrange for her stay, and the
strangest thing to Juliet was that she hardly felt it strange. It was
only as if she had come a day sooner than she was expected--which
indeed was very much the case, for Polwarth had been looking forward to
the possibility, and latterly to the likelihood of her becoming their
"Your room is ready now," said Ruth, approaching her timidly, and
looking up at her with her woman's childlike face on the body of a
child. "Will you come?"
Juliet rose and followed her to the garret-room with the dormer window,
in which Ruth slept.
"Will you please get into bed as fast as you can," she said, "and when
you knock on the floor I will come and take away your clothes and get
them dried. Please to wrap this new blanket round you, lest the cold
sheets should give you a chill. They are well aired, though. I will
bring you a hot bottle, and some tea. Dinner will be ready soon."
So saying she left the chamber softly. The creak of the door as she
closed it, and the white curtains of the bed and window, reminded Juliet
of a certain room she once occupied at the house of an old nurse, where
she had been happier than ever since in all her life, until her brief
bliss with Faber: she burst into tears, and weeping undressed and got
into bed. There the dryness and the warmth and the sense of safety
soothed her speedily; and with the comfort crept in the happy thought
that here she lay on the very edge of the high road to Glaston, and that
nothing could be more probable than that she would soon see her husband
ride past. With that one hope she could sit at a window watching for
centuries! "O Paul! Paul! my Paul!" she moaned. "If I could but be made
clean again for you! I would willingly be burned at the stake, if the
fire would only make me clean, for the chance of seeing you again in the
other world!" But as the comfort into her brain, so the peace of her new
surroundings stole into her heart. The fancy grew upon her that she was
in a fairy-tale, in which she must take every thing as it came, for she
could not alter the text. Fear vanished; neither staring eyes nor
creeping pool could find her in the guardianship of the benevolent
goblins. She fell fast asleep; and the large, clear, gray eyes of the
little woman gnome came and looked at her as she slept, and their gaze
did not rouse her. Softly she went, and came again; but, although dinner
was then ready, Ruth knew better than to wake her. She knew that sleep
is the chief nourisher in life's feast, and would not withdraw the
sacred dish. Her uncle said sleep was God's contrivance for giving man
the help he could not get into him while he was awake. So the loving
gnomes had their dinner together, putting aside the best portions of it
against the waking of the beautiful lady lying fast asleep above.
THE CORNER OF THE BUTCHER'S SHOP.
All that same Sunday morning, the minister and Dorothy had of course
plenty of work to their hand, for their more immediate neighbors were
all of the poor. Their own house, although situated on the very bank of
the river, was in no worse plight than most of the houses in the town,
for it stood upon an artificial elevation; and before long, while it had
its lower parts full of water like the rest, its upper rooms were filled
with people from the lanes around. But Mr. Drake's heart was in the
Pottery, for he was anxious as to the sufficiency of his measures. Many
of the neighbors, driven from their homes, had betaken themselves to his
inclosure, and when he went, he found the salmon-fishers still carrying
families thither. He set out at once to get what bread he could from the
baker's, a quantity of meat from the butcher, cheese, coffee, and tins
of biscuits and preserved meat from the grocers: all within his bounds
were either his own people or his guests, and he must do what he could
to feed them. For the first time he felt rich, and heartily glad and
grateful that he was. He could please God, his neighbor, and himself all
at once, getting no end of good out of the slave of which the
unrighteous make a god.
He took Dorothy with him, for he would have felt helpless on such an
expedition without her judgment; and, as Lisbeth's hands were more than
full, they agreed it was better to take Amanda. Dorothy was far from
comfortable at having to leave Juliet alone all day, but the possibility
of her being compelled to omit her customary visit had been contemplated
between them, and she could not fail to understand it on this the first
occasion. Anyhow, better could not be, for the duty at home was far the
more pressing. That day she showed an energy which astonished even her
father. Nor did she fail of her reward. She received insights into
humanity which grew to real knowledge. I was going to say that, next to
an insight into the heart of God, an insight into the heart of a human
being is the most precious of things; but when I think of it--what is
the latter but the former? I will say this at least, that no one reads
the human heart well, to whom the reading reveals nothing of the heart
of the Father. The wire-gauze of sobering trouble over the flaming
flower of humanity, enabled Dorothy to see right down into its
fire-heart, and distinguish there the loveliest hues and shades. Where
the struggle for own life is in abeyance, and the struggle for other
life active, there the heart that God thought out and means to perfect,
the pure love-heart of His humans, reveals itself truly, and is gracious
to behold. For then the will of the individual sides divinely with his
divine impulse, and his heart is unified in good. When the will of the
man sides perfectly with the holy impulses in him, then all is well; for
then his mind is one with the mind of his Maker; God and man are one.
Amanda shrieked with delight when she was carried to the boat, and went
on shrieking as she floated over flower-beds and box-borders, caught now
and then in bushes and overhanging branches. But the great fierce
current, ridging the middle of the brown lake as it followed the tide
out to the ocean, frightened her a little. The features of the flat
country were all but obliterated; trees only and houses and corn-stacks
stood out of the water, while in the direction of the sea where were
only meadows, all indication of land had vanished; one wide, brown level
was everywhere, with a great rushing serpent of water in the middle of
it. Amanda clapped her little hands in ecstasy. Never was there such a
child for exuberance of joy! her aunt thought. Or, if there were others
as glad, where were any who let the light of their gladness so shine
before men, invading, conquering them as she did with the rush of her
joy! Dorothy held fast to the skirt of her frock, fearing every instant
the explosive creature would jump overboard in elemental sympathy. But,
poled carefully along by Mr. Drake, they reached in safety a certain old
shed, and getting in at the door of the loft where a cow-keeper stored
his hay and straw, through that descended into the heart of the Pottery,
which its owner was delighted to find--not indeed dry under foot with
such a rain falling, but free from lateral invasion.
His satisfaction, however, was of short duration. Dorothy went into one
of the nearer dwellings, and he was crossing an open space with Amanda,
to get help from a certain cottage in unloading the boat and
distributing its cargo, when he caught sight of a bubbling pool in the
middle of it. Alas! it was from a drain, whose covering had burst with
the pressure from within. He shouted for help. Out hurried men, women
and children on all sides. For a few moments he was entirely occupied in
giving orders, and let Amanda's hand go: every body knew her, and there
seemed no worse mischief within reach for her than dabbling in the
pools, to which she was still devoted.
Two or three spades were soon plying busily, to make the breach a little
wider, while men ran to bring clay and stones from one of the condemned
cottages. Suddenly arose a great cry, and the crowd scattered in all
directions. The wall of defense at the corner of the butcher's shop had
given away, and a torrent was galloping across the Pottery, straight for
the spot where the water was rising from the drain. Amanda, gazing in
wonder at the fight of the people about her, stood right in its course,
but took no heed of it, or never saw it coming. It caught her, swept her
away, and tumbled with her, foaming and roaring, into the deep
foundation of which I have spoken. Her father had just missed her, and
was looking a little anxiously round, when a shriek of horror and fear
burst from the people, and they rushed to the hole. Without a word
spoken he knew Amanda was in it. He darted through them, scattering men
and women in all directions, but pulling off his coat as he ran.
Though getting old, he was far from feeble, and had been a strong
swimmer in his youth. But he plunged heedlessly, and the torrent, still
falling some little height, caught him, and carried him almost to the
bottom. When he came to the top, he looked in vain for any sign of the
child. The crowd stood breathless on the brink. No one had seen her,
though all eyes were staring into the tumult. He dived, swam about
beneath, groping in the frightful opacity, but still in vain. Then down
through the water came a shout, and he shot to the surface--to see only
something white vanish. But the recoil of the torrent from below caught
her, and just as he was diving again, brought her up almost within
arm's-length of him. He darted to her, clasped her, and gained the
brink. He could not have got out, though the cavity was now brimful, but
ready hands had him in safety in a moment. Fifty arms were stretched to
take the child, but not even to Dorothy would he yield her. Ready to
fall at every step, he blundered through the water, which now spread
over the whole place, and followed by Dorothy in mute agony, was making
for the shed behind which lay his boat, when one of the salmon fishers,
who had brought his coble in at the gap, crossed them, and took them up.
Mr. Drake dropped into the bottom of the boat, with the child pressed to
his bosom. He could not speak.
"To Doctor Faber's! For the child's life!" said Dorothy, and the fisher
rowed like a madman.
Faber had just come in. He undressed the child with his own hands,
rubbed her dry, and did every thing to initiate respiration. For a long
time all seemed useless, but he persisted beyond the utmost verge of
hope. Mr. Drake and Dorothy stood in mute dismay. Neither was quite a
_child_ of God yet, and in the old man a rebellious spirit murmured: it
was hard that he should have evil for good! that his endeavors for his
people should be the loss of his child!
Faber was on the point of ceasing his efforts in utter despair, when he
thought he felt a slight motion of the diaphragm, and renewed them
eagerly. She began to breathe. Suddenly she opened her eyes, looked at
him for a moment, then with a smile closed them again. To the watchers
heaven itself seemed to open in that smile. But Faber dropped the tiny
form, started a pace backward from the bed, and stood staring aghast.
The next moment he threw the blankets over the child, turned away, and
almost staggered from the room. In his surgery he poured himself out a
glass of brandy, swallowed it neat, sat down and held his head in his
hands. An instant after, he was by the child's side again, feeling her
pulse, and rubbing her limbs under the blankets.
The minister's hands had turned blue, and he had begun to shiver, but a
smile of sweetest delight was on his face.
"God bless me!" cried the doctor, "you've got no coat on! and you are
drenched! I never saw any thing but the child!"
"He plunged into the horrible hole after her," said Dorothy. "How
wicked of me to forget him for any child under the sun! He got her out
all by himself, Mr. Faber!--Come home, father dear.--I will come back
and see to Amanda as soon as I have got him to bed."
"Yes, Dorothy; let us go," said the minister, and put his hand on her
shoulder. His teeth chattered and his hand shook.
The doctor rang the bell violently.
"Neither of you shall leave this house to-night.--Take a hot bath to the
spare bedroom, and remove the sheets," he said to the housekeeper, who
had answered the summons. "My dear sir," he went on, turning again to
the minister, "you must get into the blankets at once. How careless of
me! The child's life will be dear at the cost of yours."
"You have brought back the soul of the child to me, Mr. Faber," said the
minister, trembling, "and I can never thank you enough."
"There won't be much to thank me for, if you have to go instead.--Miss
Drake, while I give your father his bath, you must go with Mrs. Roberts,
and put on dry clothes. Then you will be able to nurse him."
As soon as Dorothy, whose garments Juliet had been wearing so long, was
dressed in some of hers, she went to her father's room. He was already
in bed, but it was long before they could get him warm. Then he grew
burning hot, and all night was talking in troubled dreams. Once Dorothy
heard him say, as if he had been talking to God face to face: "O my God,
if I had but once seen Thee, I do not think I could ever have mistrusted
Thee. But I could never be quite sure."
The morning brought lucidity. How many dawns a morning brings! His first
words were "How goes it with the child?" Having heard that she had had a
good night, and was almost well, he turned over, and fell fast asleep.
Then Dorothy, who had been by his bed all night, resumed her own
garments, and went to the door.
HERE AND THERE.
The rain had ceased, and the flood was greatly diminished. It was
possible, she judged, to reach the Old House, and after a hasty
breakfast, she set out, leaving her father to Mrs. Roberts's care. The
flood left her no choice but go by the high road to Polwarth's gate, and
then she had often to wade through mud and water. The moment she saw the
gatekeeper, she knew somehow by his face that Juliet was in the lodge.
When she entered, she saw that already her new circumstances were
working upon her for peace. The spiritual atmosphere, so entirely human,
the sense that she was not and would not be alone, the strange talk
which they held openly before her, the food they coaxed her to eat, the
whole surrounding of thoughts and things as they should be, was
operating far more potently than could be measured by her understanding
of their effects, or even consciousness of their influences. She still
looked down upon the dwarfs, condescended to them, had a vague feeling
that she honored them by accepting their ministration--for which, one
day, she would requite them handsomely. Not the less had she all the
time a feeling that she was in the society of ministering spirits of
God, good and safe and true. From the Old House to the cottage was from
the Inferno to the Purgatorio, across whose borders faint wafts from
Paradise now and then strayed wandering. Without knowing it, she had
begun already to love the queer little woman, with the wretched body,
the fine head, and gentle, suffering face; while the indescribable awe,
into which her aversion to the kobold, with his pigeon-chest, his
wheezing breath, his great head, and his big, still face, which to such
eyes as the curate's seemed to be looking into both worlds at once, had
passed over, bore no unimportant part in that portion of her discipline
here commenced. One of the loftiest spirits of the middle earth, it was
long before she had quite ceased to regard him as a power of the nether
world, partly human, and at once something less and something more. Yet
even already she was beginning to feel at home with them! True, the
world in which they really lived was above her spiritual vision, as
beyond her intellectual comprehension, yet not the less was the air
around them the essential air of homeness; for the truths in which their
spirits lived and breathed, were the same which lie at the root of every
feeling of home-safety in the world, which make the bliss of the child
in his mother's bed, the bliss of young beasts in their nests, of birds
under their mother's wing. The love which inclosed her was far too great
for her--as the heaven of the mother's face is beyond the understanding
of the new-born child over whom she bends; but that mother's face is
nevertheless the child's joy and peace. She did not yet recognize it as
love, saw only the ministration; but it was what she sorely needed: she
said the sort of thing suited her, and at once began to fall in with it.
What it cost her entertainers, with organization as delicate as uncouth,
in the mere matter of bodily labor, she had not an idea--imagined indeed
that she gave them no trouble at all, because, having overheard the
conversation between them upon her arrival, she did herself a part of
the work required for her comfort in her own room. She never saw the
poor quarters to which Ruth for her sake had banished herself--never
perceived the fact that there was nothing good enough wherewith to repay
them except worshipful gratitude, love, admiration, and
submission--feelings she could not even have imagined possible in regard
to such inferiors.
And now Dorothy had not a little to say to Juliet about her husband. In
telling what had taken place, however, she had to hear many more
questions than she was able to answer.
"Does he really believe me dead, Dorothy?" was one of them.
"I do not believe there is one person in Glaston who knows what he
thinks," answered Dorothy. "I have not heard of his once opening his
mouth on the subject. He is just as silent now as he used to be ready to
"My poor Paul!" murmured Juliet, and hid her face and wept.
Indeed not a soul in Glaston or elsewhere knew a single thought he had.
Certain mysterious advertisements in the county paper were imagined by
some to be his and to refer to his wife. Some, as the body had never
been seen, did begin to doubt whether she was dead. Some, on the other
hand, hinted that her husband had himself made away with her--for, they
argued, what could be easier to a doctor, and why, else, did he make no
search for the body? To Dorothy this supposed fact seemed to indicate a
belief that she was not dead--perhaps a hope that she would sooner
betray herself if he manifested no anxiety to find her. But she said
nothing of this to Juliet.
Her news of him was the more acceptable to the famished heart of the
wife, that, from his great kindness to them all, and especially from the
perseverance which had restored to them their little Amanda, Dorothy's
heart had so warmed toward him, that she could not help speaking of him
in a tone far more agreeable to Juliet than hitherto she had been able
to use. His pale, worn look, and the tokens of trouble throughout his
demeanor, all more evident upon nearer approach, had also wrought upon
her; and she so described his care, anxiety, and tenderness over Amanda,
that Juliet became jealous of the child, as she would have been of any
dog she saw him caress. When all was told, and she was weary of asking
questions to which there were no answers, she fell back in her chair
with a sigh: alas, she was no nearer to him for the hearing of her ears!
While she lived she was open to his scorn, and deserved it the more that
she had _seemed_ to die! She must die; for then at last a little love
would revive in his heart, ere he died too and followed her nowhither.
Only first she must leave him his child to plead for her:--she used
sometimes to catch herself praying that the infant might be like her.
"Look at my jacket!" said Dorothy. It was one of Juliet's, and she hoped
to make her smile.
"Did Paul see you with my clothes on?" she said angrily.
Dorothy started with the pang of hurt that shot through her. But the
compassionate smile on the face of Polwarth, who had just entered, and
had heard the last article of the conversation, at once set her right.
For not only was he capable of immediate sympathy with emotion, but of
revealing at once that he understood its cause. Ruth, who had come into
the room behind him, second only to her uncle in the insight of love,
followed his look by asking Dorothy if she might go to the Old House, as
soon as the weather permitted, to fetch some clothes for Mrs. Faber, who
had brought nothing with her but what she wore; whereupon Dorothy,
partly for leisure to fight her temper, said she would go herself, and
went. But when she returned, she gave the bag to Ruth at the door, and
went away without seeing Juliet again. She was getting tired of her
selfishness, she said to herself. Dorothy was not herself yet perfect in
love--which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things,
endureth all things.
Faber too had been up all night--by the bedside of the little Amanda.
She scarcely needed such close attendance, for she slept soundly, and
was hardly at all feverish. Four or five times in the course of the
night, he turned down the bed-clothes to examine her body, as if he
feared some injury not hitherto apparent. Of such there was no sign.
In his youth he had occupied himself much with comparative anatomy and
physiology. His predilection for these studies had greatly sharpened his
observation, and he noted many things that escaped the eyes of better
than ordinary observers. Amongst other kinds of things to which he kept
his eyes open, he was very quick at noting instances of the strange
persistency with which Nature perpetuates minute peculiarities, carrying
them on from generation to generation. Occupied with Amanda, a certain
imperfection in one of the curves of the outer ear attracted his
attention. It is as rare to see a perfect ear as to see a perfect form,
and the varieties of unfinished curves are many; but this imperfection
was very peculiar. At the same time it was so slight, that not even the
eye of a lover, none save that of a man of science, alive to minutest
indications, would probably have seen it. The sight of it startled Faber
not a little; it was the second instance of the peculiarity that had
come to his knowledge. It gave him a new idea to go upon, and when the
child suddenly opened her eyes, he saw another face looking at him out
of hers. The idea then haunted him; and whether it was that it
assimilated facts to itself, or that the signs were present, further
search afforded what was to him confirmation of the initiatory
Notwithstanding the state of feebleness in which he found Mr. Drake the
next morning, he pressed him with question upon question, amounting to a
thorough cross-examination concerning Amanda's history, undeterred by
the fact that, whether itself merely bored, or its nature annoyed him,
his patient plainly disrelished his catechising. It was a subject which,
as his love to the child increased, had grown less and less agreeable to
Mr. Drake: she was to him so entirely his own that he had not the least
desire to find out any thing about her, to learn a single fact or hear a
single conjecture to remind him that she was not in every sense as well
as the best, his own daughter. He was therefore not a little annoyed at
the persistency of the doctor's questioning, but, being a courteous man,
and under endless obligation to him for the very child's sake as well as
his own, he combated disinclination, and with success, acquainting the
doctor with every point he knew concerning Amanda. Then first the doctor
grew capable of giving his attention to the minister himself; whose son
if he had been, he could hardly have shown him greater devotion. A whole
week passed before he would allow him to go home. Dorothy waited upon
him, and Amanda ran about the house. The doctor and she had been friends
from the first, and now, when he was at home, there was never any doubt
where Amanda was to be found.
The same day on which the Drakes left him, Faber started by the
night-train for London, and was absent three days.
Amanda was now perfectly well, but Mr. Drake continued poorly. Dorothy
was anxious to get him away from the river-side, and proposed putting
the workmen into the Old House at once. To this he readily consented,
but would not listen to her suggestion that in the meantime he should go
to some watering-place. He would be quite well in a day or two, and
there was no rest for him, he said, until the work so sadly bungled was
properly done. He did not believe his plans were defective, and could
not help doubting whether they had been faithfully carried out. But the
builder, a man of honest repute, protested also that he could not
account for the yielding of the wall, except he had had the mishap to
build over some deep drain, or old well, which was not likely, so close
to the river. He offered to put it up again at his own expense, when
perhaps they might discover the cause of the catastrophe.
Sundry opinions and more than one rumor were current among the
neighbors. At last they were mostly divided into two parties, the one
professing the conviction that the butcher, who was known to have some
grudge at the minister, had, under the testudo-shelter of his
slaughter-house, undermined the wall; the other indignantly asserting
that the absurdity had no foundation except in the evil thoughts of
churchmen toward dissenters, being in fact a wicked slander. When the
suggestion reached the minister's ears, he, knowing the butcher, and
believing the builder, was inclined to institute investigations; but as
such a course was not likely to lead the butcher to repentance, he
resolved instead to consult with him how his premises might be included
in the defense. The butcher chuckled with conscious success, and for
some months always chuckled when sharpening his knife; but by and by the
coals of fire began to scorch, and went on scorching--the more that Mr.
Drake very soon became his landlord, and voluntarily gave him several
advantages. But he gave strict orders that there should be no dealings
with him. It was one thing, he said, to be good to the sinner, and
another to pass by his fault without confession, treating it like a mere
personal affair which might be forgotten. Before the butcher died, there
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