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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPaul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 35. A Heart
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Paul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 35. A Heart Post by :Sunil_Tanna Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :899

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Paul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 35. A Heart

CHAPTER XXXV. A HEART

If people were both observant and memorious, they would cease, I fancy, to be astonished at coincidences. Rightly regarded, the universe is but one coincidence--only where will has to be developed, there is need for human play, and room for that must be provided in its spaces. The works of God being from the beginning, and all his beginnings invisible either from greatness or smallness or nearness or remoteness, numberless coincidences may pass in every man's history, before he becomes capable of knowing either the need or the good of them, or even of noting them.

The same morning there was another awake and up early. When Juliet was about half-way across the park, hurrying to the water, Dorothy was opening the door of the empty house, seeking solitude that she might find the one Dweller therein. She went straight to one of the upper rooms looking out upon the garden, and kneeling prayed to her Unknown God. As she kneeled, the first rays of the sunrise visited her face. That face was in itself such an embodied prayer, that had any one seen it, he might, when the beams fell upon it, have imagined he saw prayer and answer meet. It was another sunrise Dorothy was looking for, but she started and smiled when the warm rays touched her; they too came from the home of answers. As the daisy mimics the sun, so is the central fire of our system but a flower that blossoms in the eternal effulgence of the unapproachable light.

The God to whom we pray is nearer to us than the very prayer itself ere it leaves the heart; hence His answers may well come to us through the channel of our own thoughts. But the world too being itself one of His thoughts, He may also well make the least likely of His creatures an angel of His own will to us. Even the blind, if God be with him, that is, if he knows he is blind and does not think he sees, may become a leader of the blind up to the narrow gate. It is the blind who says _I see_, that leads his fellow into the ditch.

The window near which Dorothy kneeled, and toward which in the instinct for light she had turned her face, looked straight down the garden, at the foot of which the greater part of the circumference of the pond was visible. But Dorothy, busy with her prayers, or rather with a weight of hunger and thirst, from which like a burst of lightning skyward from the overcharged earth, a prayer would now and then break and rush heavenward, saw nothing of the outer world: between her and a sister soul in mortal agony, hung the curtains of her eyelids. But there were no shutters to her ears, and in at their portals all of a sudden darted a great and bitter cry, as from a heart in the gripe of a fierce terror. She had been so absorbed, and it so startled and shook her, that she never could feel certain whether the cry she heard was of this world or not. Half-asleep one hears such a cry, and can not tell whether it entered his consciousness by the ear, or through some hidden channel of the soul. Assured that waking ears heard nothing, he remains, it may be, in equal doubt, whether it came from the other side of life or was the mere cry of a dream. Before Dorothy was aware of a movement of her will, she was on her feet, and staring from the window. Something was lying on the grass beyond the garden wall, close to the pond: it looked like a woman. She darted from the house, out of the garden, and down the other side of the wall. When she came nearer she saw it was indeed a woman, evidently insensible. She was bare-headed. Her bonnet was floating in the pond; the wind had blown it almost to the middle of it. Her face was turned toward the water. One hand was in it. The bank overhung the pond, and with a single movement more she would probably have been beyond help from Dorothy. She caught her by the arm, and dragged her from the brink, before ever she looked in her face. Then to her amazement she saw it was Juliet. She opened her eyes, and it was as if a lost soul looked out of them upon Dorothy--a being to whom the world was nothing, so occupied was it with some torment, which alone measured its existence--far away, although it hung attached to the world by a single hook of brain and nerve.

"Juliet, my darling!" said Dorothy, her voice trembling with the love which only souls that know trouble can feel for the troubled, "come with me. I will take care of you."

At the sound of her voice, Juliet shuddered. Then a better light came into her eyes, and feebly she endeavored to get up. With Dorothy's help she succeeded, but stood as if ready to sink again to the earth. She drew her cloak about her, turned and stared at the water, turned again and stared at Dorothy, at last threw herself into her arms, and sobbed and wailed. For a few moments Dorothy held her in a close embrace. Then she sought to lead her to the house, and Juliet yielded at once. She took her into one of the lower rooms, and got her some water--it was all she could get for her, and made her sit down on the window-seat. It seemed a measureless time before she made the least attempt to speak; and again and again when she began to try, she failed. She opened her mouth, but no sounds would come. At length, interrupted with choking gasps, low cries of despair, and long intervals of sobbing, she said something like this:

"I was going to drown myself. When I came in sight of the water, I fell down in a half kind of faint. All the time I lay, I felt as if some one was dragging me nearer and nearer to the pool. Then something came and drew me back--and it was you, Dorothy. But you ought to have left me. I am a wretch. There is no room for me in this world any more." She stopped a moment, then fixing wide eyes on Dorothy's, said, "Oh Dorothy, dear! there are awful things in the world! as awful as any you ever read in a book!"

"I know that, dear. But oh! I am sorry if any of them have come your way. Tell me what is the matter. I _will help you if I can."

"I dare not; I dare not! I should go raving mad if I said a word about it."

"Then don't tell me, my dear. Come with me up stairs; there is a warmer room there--full of sunshine; you are nearly dead with cold. I came here this morning, Juliet, to be alone and pray to God; and see what He has sent me! You, dear! Come up stairs. Why, you are quite wet! You will get your death of cold!"

"Then it would be all right. I would rather not kill myself if I could die without. But it must be somehow."

"We'll talk about it afterward. Come now."

With Dorothy's arm round her waist, Juliet climbed trembling to the warmer room. On a rickety wooden chair, Dorothy made her sit in the sunshine, while she went and gathered chips and shavings and bits of wood left by the workmen. With these she soon kindled a fire in the rusty grate. Then she took off Juliet's shoes and stockings, and put her own upon her. She made no resistance, only her eyes followed Dorothy's bare feet going to and fro, as if she felt something was wrong, and had not strength to inquire into it.

But Dorothy's heart rebuked her for its own lightness. It had not been so light for many a day. It seemed as if God was letting her know that He was there. She spread her cloak on a sunny spot of the floor, made Juliet lie down upon it, put a bundle of shavings under her head, covered her with her own cloak, which she had dried at the fire, and was leaving the room.

"Where are you going, Dorothy?" cried Juliet, seeming all at once to wake up.

"I am going to fetch your husband, dear," answered Dorothy.

She gave a great cry, rose to her knees, and clasped Dorothy round hers.

"No, no, no!" she screamed. "You shall not. If you do, I swear I will run straight to the pond."

Notwithstanding the wildness of her voice and look, there was an evident determination in both.

"I will do nothing you don't like, dear," said Dorothy. "I thought that was the best thing I could do for you."

"No! no! no! any thing but that!"

"Then of course I won't. But I must go and get you something to eat."

"I could not swallow a mouthful; it would choke me. And where would be the good of it, when life is over!"

"Don't talk like that, dear. Life can't be over till it is taken from us."

"Ah, you would see it just as I do, if you knew all!"

"Tell me all, then."

"Where is the use, when there is no help?"

"No help!" echoed Dorothy.--The words she had so often uttered in her own heart, coming from the lips of another, carried in them an incredible contradiction.--Could God make or the world breed the irreparable?--"Juliet," she went on, after a little pause, "I have often said the same myself, but--"

"You!" interrupted Juliet; "you who always professed to believe!"

Dorothy's ear could not distinguish whether the tone was of indignation or of bitterness.

"You never heard me, Juliet," she answered, "profess any thing. If my surroundings did so for me, I could not help that. I never dared say I believed any thing. But I hope--and, perhaps," she went on with a smile, "seeing Hope is own sister to Faith, she may bring me to know her too some day. Paul says----"

Dorothy had been brought up a dissenter, and never said _St. this one or that, any more than the Christians of the New Testament.

At the sound of the name, Juliet burst into tears, the first she shed, for the word _Paul_, like the head of the javelin torn from the wound, brought the whole fountain after it. She cast herself down again, and lay and wept. Dorothy kneeled beside her, and laid a hand on her shoulder. It was the only way she could reach her at all.

"You see," she said at last, for the weeping went on and on, "there is nothing will do you any good but your husband."

"No, no; he has cast me from him forever!" she cried, in a strange wail that rose to a shriek.

"The wretch!" exclaimed Dorothy, clenching a fist whose little bones looked fierce through the whitened skin.

"No," returned Juliet, suddenly calmed, in a voice almost severe; "it is I who am the wretch, to give you a moment in which to blame him. He has done nothing but what is right."

"I don't believe it."

"I deserved it."

"I am sure you did not. I would believe a thousand things against him before I would believe one against you, my poor white queen!" cried Dorothy, kissing her hand.

She snatched it away, and covered her face with both hands.

"I should only need to tell you one thing to convince you," she sobbed from behind them.

"Then tell it me, that I may not be unjust to him."

"I can not."

"I won't take your word against yourself," returned Dorothy determinedly. "You will have to tell me, or leave me to think the worst of him." She was moved by no vulgar curiosity: how is one to help without knowing? "Tell me, my dear," she went on after a little; "tell me all about it, and in the name of the God in whom I hope to believe, I promise to give myself to your service."

Thus adjured, Juliet found herself compelled. But with what heart-tearing groans and sobs, with what intervals of dumbness, in which the truth seemed unutterable for despair and shame, followed by what hurrying of wild confession, as if she would cast it from her, the sad tale found its way into Dorothy's aching heart, I will not attempt to describe. It is enough that at last it was told, and that it had entered at the wide-open, eternal doors of sympathy. If Juliet had lost a husband, she had gained a friend, and that was something--indeed no little thing--for in her kind the friend was more complete than the husband. She was truer, more entire--in friendship nearly perfect. When a final burst of tears had ended the story of loss and despair, a silence fell.

"Oh, those men! those men!" said Dorothy, in a low voice of bitterness, as if she knew them and their ways well, though never had kiss of man save her father lighted on her cheek. "--My poor darling!" she said after another pause, "--and he cast you from him!--I suppose a woman's heart," she went on after a third pause, "can never make up for the loss of a man's, but here is mine for you to go into the very middle of, and lie down there."

Juliet had, as she told her story, risen to her knees. Dorothy was on hers too, and as she spoke she opened wide her arms, and clasped the despised wife to her bosom. None but the arms of her husband, Juliet believed, could make her alive with forgiveness, yet she felt a strange comfort in that embrace. It wrought upon her as if she had heard a far-off whisper of the words: _Thy sins be forgiven thee_. And no wonder: there was the bosom of one of the Lord's clean ones for her to rest upon! It was her first lesson in the mighty truth that sin of all things is mortal, and purity alone can live for evermore.

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