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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPaul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 36. Two More Minds
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Paul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 36. Two More Minds Post by :Sunil_Tanna Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :3195

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Paul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 36. Two More Minds

CHAPTER XXXVI. TWO MORE MINDS

Nothing makes a man strong like a call upon him for help--a fact which points at a unity more delicate and close and profound than heart has yet perceived. It is but "a modern instance" how a mother, if she be but a hen, becomes bold as a tigress for her periled offspring. A stranger will fight for the stranger who puts his trust in him. The most foolish of men will search his musty brain to find wise saws for his boy. An anxious man, going to his friend to borrow, may return having lent him instead. The man who has found nothing yet in the world save food for the hard, sharp, clear intellect, will yet cast an eye around the universe to see if perchance there may not be a God somewhere for the hungering heart of his friend. The poor, but lovely, the doubting, yet living faith of Dorothy arose, stretched out its crippled wings, and began to arrange and straighten their disordered feathers. It is a fair sight, any creature, be it but a fly, dressing its wings! Dorothy's were feeble, ruffled, their pen-feathers bent and a little crushed; but Juliet's were full of mud, paralyzed with disuse, and grievously singed in the smoldering fire of her secret. A butterfly that has burned its wings is not very unlike a caterpillar again.

"Look here, Juliet," said Dorothy: "there must be some way out of it, or there is no saving God in the universe.--Now don't begin to say there isn't, because, you see, it is your only chance. It would be a pity to make a fool of yourself by being over-wise, to lose every thing by taking it for granted there is no God. If after all there should be one, it would be the saddest thing to perish for want of Him. I won't say I am as miserable as you, for I haven't a husband to trample on my heart; but I am miserable enough, and want dreadfully to be saved. I don't call this life worth living. Nothing is right, nothing goes well--there is no harmony in me. I don't call it life at all. I want music and light in me. I want a God to save me out of this wretchedness. I want health."

"I thought you were never ill, Dorothy," murmured Juliet listlessly.

"Is it possible you do not know what I mean?" returned Dorothy. "Do you never feel wretched and sick in your very soul?--disgusted with yourself, and longing to be lifted up out of yourself into a region of higher conditions altogether?"

That kind of thing Juliet had been learning to attribute to the state of her health--had partly learned: it is hard to learn any thing false _thoroughly_, for it _can not so be learned. It is true that it is often, perhaps it is generally, in troubled health, that such thoughts come first; but in nature there are facts of color that the cloudy day reveals. So sure am I that many things which illness has led me to see are true, that I would endlessly rather never be well than lose sight of them. "So would any madman say of his fixed idea." I will keep my madness, then, for therein most do I desire the noble: and to desire what I desire, if it be but to desire, is better than to have all you offer us in the name of truth. Through such desire and the hope of its attainment, all greatest things have been wrought in the earth: I too have my unbelief as well as you--I can not believe that a lie on the belief of which has depended our highest development. You may say you have a higher to bring in. But that higher you have become capable of by the precedent lie. Yet you vaunt truth! You would sink us low indeed, making out falsehood our best nourishment--at some period of our history at least. If, however, what I call true and high, you call false and low--my assertion that you have never seen that of which I so speak will not help--then is there nothing left us but to part, each go his own road, and wait the end--which according to my expectation will show the truth, according to yours, being nothing, will show nothing.

"I can not help thinking, if we could only get up there," Dorothy went on,--"I mean into a life of which I can at least dream--if I could but get my head and heart into the kingdom of Heaven, I should find that every thing else would come right. I believe it is God Himself I want--nothing will do but Himself in me. Mr. Wingfold says that we find things all wrong about us, that they keep going against our will and our liking, just to drive things right inside us, or at least to drive us where we can get them put right; and that, as soon as their work is done, the waves will lie down at our feet, or if not, we shall at least walk over their crests."

"It sounds very nice, and would comfort any body that wasn't in trouble," said Juliet; "but you wouldn't care one bit for it all any more than I do, if you had pain and love like mine pulling at your heart."

"I have seen a mother make sad faces enough over the baby at her breast," said Dorothy. "Love and pain seem so strangely one in this world, the wonder is how they will ever get parted. What God must feel like, with this world hanging on to Him with all its pains and cries--!"

"It's His own fault," said Juliet bitterly. "Why did He make us--or why did He not make us good? I'm sure I don't know where was the use of making me!"

"Perhaps not much yet," replied Dorothy, "but then He hasn't made you, He hasn't done with you yet. He is making you now, and you don't like it."

"No, I don't--if you call this making. Why does He do it? He could have avoided all this trouble by leaving us alone."

"I put something like the same question once to Mr. Wingfold," said Dorothy, "and he told me it was impossible to show any one the truths of the kingdom of Heaven; he must learn them for himself. 'I can do little more,' he said, 'than give you my testimony that it seems to me all right. If God has not made you good, He has made you with the feeling that you ought to be good, and at least a half-conviction that to Him you have to go for help to become good. When you are good, then you will know why He did not make you good at first, and will be perfectly satisfied with the reason, because you will find it good and just and right--so good that it was altogether beyond the understanding of one who was not good. I don't think,' he said, 'you will ever get a thoroughly satisfactory answer to any question till you go to Himself for it--and then it may take years to make you fit to receive, that is to understand the answer.' Oh Juliet! sometimes I have felt in my heart as if--I am afraid to say it, even to you,--"

"_I shan't be shocked at any thing; I am long past that," sighed Juliet.

"It is not of you I am afraid," said Dorothy. "It is a kind of awe of the universe I feel. But God is the universe; His is the only ear that will hear me; and He knows my thoughts already. Juliet, I feel sometimes as if I _must be good for God's sake; as if I was sorry for Him, because He has such a troublesome nursery of children, that will not or can not understand Him, and will not do what He tells them, and He all the time doing the very best for them He can."

"It may be all very true, or all great nonsense, Dorothy, dear; I don't care a bit about it. All I care for is--I don't know what I care for--I don't care for any thing any more--there is nothing left to care for. I love my husband with a heart like to break--oh, how I wish it would! He hates and despises me and I dare not wish that he wouldn't. If he were to forgive me quite, I should yet feel that he ought to despise me, and that would be all the same as if he did, and there is no help. Oh, how horrid I look to him! I _can't bear it. I fancied it was all gone; but there it is, and there it must be forever. I don't care about a God. If there were a God, what would He be to me without my Paul?"

"I think, Juliet, you will yet come to say, 'What would my Paul be to me without my God?' I suspect we have no more idea than that lonely fly on the window there, what it would be _to have a God_."

"I don't care. I would rather go to hell with my Paul than go to Heaven without him," moaned Juliet.

"But what if God should be the only where to find your Paul?" said Dorothy. "What if the gulf that parts you is just the gulf of a God not believed in--a universe which neither of you can cross to meet the other--just because you do not believe it is there at all?"

Juliet made no answer--Dorothy could not tell whether from feeling or from indifference. The fact was, the words conveyed no more meaning to Juliet than they will to some of my readers. Why do I write them then? Because there are some who will understand them at once, and others who will grow to understand them. Dorothy was astonished to find herself saying them. The demands of her new office of comforter gave shape to many half-formed thoughts, substance to many shadowy perceptions, something like music to not a few dim feelings moving within her; but what she said hardly seemed her own at all.

Had it not been for Wingfold's help, Dorothy might not have learned these things in this world; but had it not been for Juliet, they would have taken years more to blossom in her being, and so become her own. Her faint hope seemed now to break forth suddenly into power. Whether or not she was saying such things as were within the scope of Juliet's apprehension, was a matter of comparatively little moment. As she lay there in misery, rocking herself from side to side on the floor, she would have taken hold of nothing. But love is the first comforter, and where love and truth speak, the love will be felt where the truth is never perceived. Love indeed is the highest in all truth; and the pressure of a hand, a kiss, the caress of a child, will do more to save sometimes than the wisest argument, even rightly understood. Love alone is wisdom, love alone is power; and where love seems to fail it is where self has stepped between and dulled the potency of its rays.

Dorothy thought of another line of expostulation.

"Juliet," she said, "suppose you were to drown yourself and your husband were to repent?"

"That is the only hope left me. You see yourself I have no choice."

"You have no pity, it seems; for what then would become of him? What if he should come to himself in bitter sorrow, in wild longing for your forgiveness, but you had taken your forgiveness with you, where he had no hope of ever finding it? Do you want to punish him? to make him as miserable as yourself? to add immeasurably to the wrong you have done him, by going where no word, no message, no letter can pass, no cry can cross? No, Juliet--death can set nothing right. But if there be a God, then nothing can go wrong but He can set it right, and set it right better than it was before."

"He could not make it better than it was."

"What!--is that your ideal of love--a love that fails in the first trial? If He could not better that, then indeed He were no God worth the name."

"Why then did He make us such--make such a world as is always going wrong?"

"Mr. Wingfold says it is always going righter the same time it is going wrong. I grant He would have had no right to make a world that might go further wrong than He could set right at His own cost. But if at His own cost He turn its ills into goods? its ugliness into favor? Ah, if it should be so, Juliet! It _may be so. I do not know. I have not found Him yet. Help me to find Him. Let us seek Him together. If you find Him you can not lose your husband. If Love is Lord of the world, love must yet be Lord in his heart. It will wake, if not sooner, yet when the bitterness has worn itself out, as Mr. Wingfold says all evil must, because its heart is death and not life."

"I don't care a straw for life. If I could but find my husband, I would gladly die forever in his arms. It is not true that the soul longs for immortality. I don't. I long only for love--for forgiveness--for my husband."

"But would you die so long as there was the poorest chance of regaining your place in his heart?"

"No. Give me the feeblest chance of that, and I will live. I could live forever on the mere hope of it."

"I can't give you any hope, but I have hope of it in my own heart."

Juliet rose on her elbow.

"But I am disgraced!" she said, almost indignantly. "It would be disgrace to him to take me again! I remember one of the officers' wives----. No, no! he hates and despises me. Besides I could never look one of his friends in the face again. Every body will say I ran away with some one--or that he sent me away because I was wicked. You all had a prejudice against me from the very first."

"Yes, in a way," confessed Dorothy. "It always seemed as if we did not know you and could not get at you, as if you avoided us--with your heart, I mean;--as if you had resolved we should not know you--as if you had something you were afraid we should discover."

"Ah, there it was, you see!" cried Juliet. "And now the hidden thing is revealed! That was it: I never could get rid of the secret that was gnawing at my life. Even when I was hardly aware of it, it was there. Oh, if I had only been ugly, then Paul would never have thought of me!"

She threw herself down again and buried her face.

"Hide me; hide me," she went on, lifting to Dorothy her hands clasped in an agony, while her face continued turned from her. "Let me stay here. Let me die in peace. Nobody would ever think I was here."

"That is just what has been coming and going in my mind," answered Dorothy. "It is a strange old place: you might be here for months and nobody know."

"Oh! wouldn't you mind it? I shouldn't live long. I couldn't, you know!"

"I will be your very sister, if you will let me," replied Dorothy; "only then you must do what I tell you--and begin at once by promising not to leave the house till I come back to you."

As she spoke she rose.

"But some one will come," said Juliet, half-rising, as if she would run after her.

"No one will. But if any one should--come here, I will show you a place where nobody would find you."

She helped her to rise, and led her from the room to a door in a rather dark passage. This she opened, and, striking a light, showed an ordinary closet, with pegs for hanging garments upon. The sides of it were paneled, and in one of them, not readily distinguishable, was another door. It opened into a room lighted only by a little window high up in a wall, through whose dusty, cobwebbed panes, crept a modicum of second-hand light from a stair.

"There!" said Dorothy. "If you should hear any sound before I come back, run in here. See what a bolt there is to the door. Mind you shut both. You can close that shutter over the window too if you like--only nobody can look in at it without getting a ladder, and there isn't one about the place. I don't believe any one knows of this room but myself."

Juliet was too miserable to be frightened at the look of it--which was wretched enough. She promised not to leave the house, and Dorothy went. Many times before she returned had Juliet fled from the sounds of imagined approach, and taken refuge in the musty dusk of the room withdrawn. When at last Dorothy came, she found her in it trembling.

She came, bringing a basket with every thing needful for breakfast. She had not told her father any thing: he was too simple, she said to herself, to keep a secret with comfort; and she would risk any thing rather than discovery while yet she did not clearly know what ought to be done. Her version of the excellent French proverb--_Dans le doute, abstiens-toi_--was, _When you are not sure, wait_--which goes a little further, inasmuch as it indicates expectation, and may imply faith. With difficulty she prevailed upon her to take some tea, and a little bread and butter, feeding her like a child, and trying to comfort her with hope. Juliet sat on the floor, leaning against the wall, the very picture of despair, white like alabaster, rather than marble--with a bluish whiteness. Her look was of one utterly lost.

"We'll let the fire out now," said Dorothy; "for the sun is shining in warm, and there had better be no smoke. The wood is rather scarce too. I will get you some more, and here are matches: you can light it again when you please."

She then made her a bed on the floor with a quantity of wood shavings, and some shawls she had brought, and when she had lain down upon it, kneeled beside her, and covering her face with her hands, tried to pray. But it seemed as if all the misery of humanity was laid upon her, and God would not speak: not a sound would come from her throat, till she burst into tears and sobs. It struck a strange chord in the soul of the wife to hear the maiden weeping over her. But it was no private trouble, it was the great need common to all men that opened the fountain of her tears. It was hunger after the light that slays the darkness, after a comfort to confront every woe, a life to lift above death, an antidote to all wrong. It was one of the groanings of the spirit that can not be uttered in words articulate, or even formed into thoughts defined. But Juliet was filled only with the thought of herself and her husband, and the tears of her friend but bedewed the leaves of her bitterness, did not reach the dry roots of her misery.

Dorothy's spirit revived when she found herself once more alone in the park on her way home the second time. She must be of better courage, she said to herself. Struggling in the Slough of Despond, she had come upon one worse mired than she, for whose sake she must search yet more vigorously after the hidden stepping-stones--the peaks whose bases are the center of the world.

"God help me!" she said ever and anon as she went, and every time she said it, she quickened her pace and ran.

It was just breakfast-time when she reached the house. Her father was coming down the stair.

"Would you mind, father," she said as they sat, "if I were to make a room at the Old House a little comfortable?"

"I mind nothing you please to do, Dorothy," he answered. "But you must not become a recluse. In your search for God, you must not forsake your neighbor."

"If only I could find my neighbor!" she returned, with a rather sad smile. "I shall never be able even to look for him, I think, till I have found One nearer first."

"You have surely found your neighbor when you have found his wounds, and your hand is on the oil-flask," said her father, who knew her indefatigable in her ministrations.

"I don't feel it so," she answered. "When I am doing things for people, my arms seem to be miles long."

As soon as her father left the table, she got her basket again, filled it from the larder and store-room, laid a book or two on the top, and telling Lisbeth she was going to the Old House for the rest of the day, set out on her third journey thither. To her delight she found Juliet fast asleep. She sat down, rather tired, and began to reflect. Her great fear was that Juliet would fall ill, and then what was to be done? How was she to take the responsibility of nursing her? But she remembered how the Lord had said she was to take no thought for the morrow; and therewith she began to understand the word. She saw that one can not _do any thing in to-morrow, and that all care which can not be put into the work of to-day, is taken out of it. One thing seemed clear--that, so long as it was Juliet's desire to remain concealed from her husband, she had no right to act against that desire. Whether Juliet was right or wrong, a sense of security was for the present absolutely necessary to quiet her mind. It seemed therefore, the first thing she had to do was to make that concealed room habitable for her. It was dreadful to think of her being there alone at night, but her trouble was too great to leave much room for fear--and anyhow there was no choice. So while Juliet slept, she set about cleaning it, and hard work she found it. Great also was the labor afterward, when, piece by piece, at night or in the early morning, she carried thither every thing necessary to make abode in it clean and warm and soft.

The labor of love is its own reward, but Dorothy received much more. For, in the fresh impulse and freedom born of this service, she soon found, not only that she thought better and more clearly on the points that troubled her, but that, thus spending herself, she grew more able to believe there must be One whose glory is perfect ministration. Also, her anxious concentration of thought upon the usurping thoughts of others, with its tendency to diseased action in the logical powers, was thereby checked, much to her relief. She was not finding an atom of what is called proof; but when the longing heart finds itself able to hope that the perfect is the fact, that the truth is alive, that the lovely is rooted in eternal purpose, it can go on without such proof as belongs to a lower stratum of things, and can not be had in these. When we rise into the mountain air, we require no other testimony than that of our lungs that we are in a healthful atmosphere. We do not find it necessary to submit it to a quantitative analysis; we are content that we breathe with joy, that we grow in strength, become lighter-hearted and better-tempered. Truth is a very different thing from fact; it is the loving contact of the soul with spiritual fact, vital and potent. It does its work in the soul independently of all faculty or qualification there for setting it forth or defending it. Truth in the inward parts is a power, not an opinion. It were as poor a matter as any held by those who deny it, if it had not its vitality in itself, if it depended upon any buttressing of other and lower material.

How should it be otherwise? If God be so near as the very idea of Him necessitates, what other availing proof of His existence can there be, than such _awareness as must come of the developing relation between Him and us? The most satisfying of intellectual proofs, if such were to be had, would be of no value. God would be no nearer to us for them all. They would bring about no blossoming of the mighty fact. While He was in our very souls, there would yet lie between Him and us a gulf of misery, of no-knowledge.

Peace is for those who _do the truth, not those who opine it. The true man troubled by intellectual doubt, is so troubled unto further health and growth. Let him be alive and hopeful, above all obedient, and he will be able to wait for the deeper content which must follow with completer insight. Men may say such a man but deceives himself, that there is nothing of the kind he pleases himself with imagining; but this is at least worth reflecting upon--that while the man who aspires fears he may be deceiving himself, it is the man who does not aspire who asserts that he is. One day the former may be sure, and the latter may cease to deny, and begin to doubt.

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