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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPaul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 38. The Mind Of Juliet
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Paul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 38. The Mind Of Juliet Post by :Sunil_Tanna Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1415

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Paul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 38. The Mind Of Juliet


There was one, however, who, I must confess, was not a little relieved at the news of what had befallen Faber. For, although far from desiring his death, which indeed would have ruined some of her warmest hopes for Juliet, Dorothy greatly dreaded meeting him. She was a poor dissembler, hated even the shadow of a lie, and here was a fact, which, if truth could conceal it, must not be known. Her dread had been, that, the first time she saw Faber, it would be beyond her power to look innocent, that her knowledge would be legible in her face; and much she hoped their first encounter might be in the presence of Helen or some other ignorant friend, behind whose innocent front she might shelter her conscious secrecy. To truth such a silence must feel like a culpable deception, and I do not think such a painful position can ever arise except from wrong somewhere. Dorothy could not tell a lie. She could not try to tell one; and if she had tried, she would have been instantly discovered through the enmity of her very being to the lie she told; from her lips it would have been as transparent as the truth. It is no wonder therefore that she felt relieved when first she heard of the durance in which Faber was lying. But she felt equal to the withholding from Juliet of the knowledge of her husband's condition for the present. She judged that, seeing she had saved her friend's life, she had some right to think and choose for the preservation of that life.

Meantime she must beware of security, and cultivate caution; and so successful was she, that weeks passed, and not a single doubt associated Dorothy with knowledge where others desired to know. Not even her father had a suspicion in the direction of the fact. She knew he would one day approve both of what she did, and of her silence concerning it. To tell him, thoroughly as he was to be trusted, would be to increase the risk; and besides, she had no right to reveal a woman's secret to a man.

It was a great satisfaction, however, notwithstanding her dread of meeting him, to hear that Faber had at length returned to Glaston; for if he had gone away, how could they have ever known what to do? For one thing, if he were beyond their knowledge, he might any day, in full confidence, go and marry again.

Her father not unfrequently accompanied her to the Old House, but Juliet and she had arranged such signals, and settled such understandings, that the simple man saw nothing, heard nothing, forefelt nothing. Now and then a little pang would quaver through Dorothy's bosom, when she caught sight of him peering down into the terrible dusk of the pool, or heard him utter some sympathetic hope for the future of poor Faber; but she comforted herself with the thought of how glad he would be when she was able to tell him all, and how he would laugh over the story of their precautions against himself.

Her chief anxiety was for Juliet's health, even more for the sake of avoiding discovery, than for its own. When the nights were warm she would sometimes take her out in the park, and every day, one time or another, would make her walk in the garden while she kept watch on the top of the steep slope. Her father would sometimes remark to a friend how Dorothy's love of solitude seemed to grow upon her; but the remark suggested nothing, and slowly Juliet was being forgotten at Glaston.

It seemed to Dorothy strange that she did not fall ill. For the first few days she was restless and miserable as human being could be. She had but one change of mood: either she would talk feverously, or sit in the gloomiest silence, now and then varied with a fit of abandoned weeping. Every time Dorothy came from Glaston, she would overwhelm her with questions--which at first Dorothy could easily meet, for she spoke absolute fact when she said she knew nothing concerning her husband. When at length the cause of his absence was understood, she told her he was with his friend, Dr. May, at Broughill. Knowing the universal belief that she had committed suicide, nothing could seem more natural. But when, day after day, she heard the same thing for weeks, she began to fear he would never be able to resume his practice, at least at Glaston, and wept bitterly at the thought of the evil she had brought upon him who had given her life, and love to boot. For her heart was a genuine one, and dwelt far more on the wrong her too eager love had done him, than on the hardness with which he had resented it. Nay, she admired him for the fierceness of his resentment, witnessing, in her eyes, to the purity of the man whom his neighbors regarded as wicked.

After the first day, she paid even less heed to any thing of a religious kind with which Dorothy, in the strength of her own desire after a perfect stay, sought to rouse or console her. When Dorothy ventured on such ground, which grew more and more seldom, she would sit listless, heedless, with a far-away look. Sometimes when Dorothy fancied she had been listening a little, her next words would show that her thoughts had been only with her husband. When the subsiding of the deluge of her agony, allowed words to carry meaning to her, any hint at supernal consolation made her angry, and she rejected every thing Dorothy said, almost with indignation. To seem even to accept such comfort, she would have regarded as traitorous to her husband. Not the devotion of the friend who gave up to her all of her life she could call her own, sufficed to make her listen even with a poor patience. So absorbed was she in her trouble, that she had no feeling of what poor Dorothy had done for her. How can I blame her, poor lady! If existence was not a thing to be enjoyed, as for her it certainly was not at present, how was she to be thankful for what seemed its preservation? There was much latent love to Dorothy in her heart; I may go further and say there was much latent love to God in her heart, only the latter was very latent as yet. When her heart was a little freer from grief and the agony of loss, she would love Dorothy; but God must wait with his own patience--wait long for the child of His love to learn that her very sorrow came of His dearest affection. Who wants such affection as that? says the unloving. No one, I answer; but every one who comes to know it, glorifies it as the only love that ever could satisfy his being.

Dorothy, who had within her the chill of her own doubt, soon yielded to Juliet's coldness, and ceased to say anything that could be called religious. She saw that it was not the time to speak; she must content herself with being. Nor had it ever been any thing very definite she could say. She had seldom gone beyond the expression of her own hope, and the desire that her friend would look up. She could say that all the men she knew, from books or in life, of the most delicate honesty, the most genuine repentance, the most rigid self-denial, the loftiest aspiration, were Christian men; but she could neither say her knowledge of history or of life was large, nor that, of the men she knew who professed to believe, the greater part were honest, or much ashamed, or rigid against themselves, or lofty toward God. She saw that her part was not instruction, but ministration, and that in obedience to Jesus in whom she hoped to believe. What matter that poor Juliet denied Him? If God commended His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us,' He would be pleased with the cup of cold water given to one that was not a disciple. Dorothy dared not say she was a disciple herself; she dared only say that right gladly would she become one, if she could. If only the lovely, the good, the tender, the pure, the grand, the adorable, were also the absolutely true!--true not in the human idea only, but in absolute fact, in divine existence! If the story of Jesus was true, then joy to the universe, for all was well! She waited, and hoped, and prayed and ministered.

There is a great power in quiet, for God is in it. Not seldom He seems to lay His hand on one of His children, as a mother lays hers on the restless one in the crib, to still him. Then the child sleeps, but the man begins to live up from the lower depths of his nature. So the winter comes to still the plant whose life had been rushing to blossom and fruit. When the hand of God is laid upon a man, vain moan, and struggle and complaint, it may be indignant outcry follows; but when, outwearied at last, he yields, if it be in dull submission to the inexorable, and is still, then the God at the heart of him, the God that is there or the man could not be, begins to grow. This point Juliet had not yet reached, and her trouble went on. She saw no light, no possible outlet. Her cries, her longings, her agonies, could not reach even the ears, could never reach the heart of the man who had cast her off. He believed her dead, might go and marry another, and what would be left her then? Nothing but the death from which she now restrained herself, lest, as Dorothy had taught her, she should deny him the fruits of a softening heart and returning love. The moment she heard that he sought another, she would seek Death and assuredly find him. One letter she would write to leave behind her, and then go. He should see and understand that the woman he despised for the fault of the girl, was yet capable of the noblest act of a wife: she would die that he might live--that it might be well with her husband. Having entertained, comprehended and settled this idea in her mind, she became quieter. After this, Dorothy might have spoken without stirring up so angry an opposition. But it was quite as well she did not know it, and did not speak.

I have said that Dorothy wondered she did not fall ill. There was a hope in Juliet's mind of which she had not spoken, but upon which, though vaguely, she built further hope, and which may have had part in her physical endurance: the sight of his baby might move the heart of her husband to pardon her!

But the time, even with the preoccupation of misery, grew very dreary. She had never had any resources in herself except her music, and even if here she had had any opportunity of drawing upon that, what is music but a mockery to a breaking heart? Was music ever born of torture, of misery? It is only when the cloud of sorrow is sinking in the sun-rays, that the song-larks awake and ascend. A glory of some sort must fringe the skirts of any sadness, the light of the sorrowing soul itself must be shed upon it, and the cloud must be far enough removed to show the reflected light, before it will yield any of the stuff of which songs are made. And this light that gathers in song, what is it but hope behind the sorrow--hope so little recognized as such, that it is often called despair? It is reviving and not decay that sings even the saddest of songs.

Juliet had had little consciousness of her own being as an object of reflection. Joy and sorrow came and went; she had never brooded. Never until now, had she known any very deep love. Even that she bore her father had not ripened into the grand love of the woman-child. She forgot quickly; she hoped easily; she had had some courage, and naturally much activity; she faced necessity by instinct, and took almost no thought for the morrow--but this after the fashion of the birds, not after the fashion required of those who can consider the birds; it is one thing to take no thought, for want of thought, and another to take no thought, from sufficing thought, whose flower is confidence. The one way is the lovely way of God in the birds--the other, His lovelier way in his men and women. She had in her the making of a noble woman--only that is true of every woman; and it was no truer of her than of every other woman, that, without religion, she could never be, in any worthy sense, a woman at all. I know how narrow and absurd this will sound to many of my readers, but such simply do not know what religion means, and think I do not know what a woman means. Hitherto her past had always turned to a dream as it glided away from her; but now, in the pauses of her prime agony, the tide rose from the infinite sea to which her river ran, and all her past was borne back upon her, even to her far-gone childish quarrels with her silly mother, and the neglect and disobedience she had too often been guilty of toward her father. And the center of her memories was the hot coal of that one secret; around that they all burned and hissed. Now for the first time her past _was_, and she cowered and fled from it, a slave to her own history, to her own deeds, to her own concealment. Alas, like many another terror-stricken child, to whom the infinite bosom of tenderness and love stretches out arms of shelter and healing and life, she turned to the bosom of death, and imagined there a shelter of oblivious darkness! For life is a thing so deep, so high, so pure, so far above the reach of common thought, that, although shadowed out in all the harmonic glories of color, and speech, and song, and scent, and motion, and shine, yea, even of eyes and loving hands, to common minds--and the more merely intellectual, the commoner are they--it seems but a phantasm. To unchildlike minds, the region of love and worship, to which lead the climbing stairs of duty, is but a nephelocockygia; they acknowledge the stairs, however, thank God, and if they will but climb, a hand will be held out to them. Now, to pray to a God, the very thought of whose possible existence might seem enough to turn the coal of a dead life into a diamond of eternal radiance, is with many such enough to stamp a man a fool. It will surprise me nothing in the new world to hear such men, finding they are not dead after all, begin at once to argue that they were quite right in refusing to act upon any bare possibility--forgetting that the questioning of possibilities has been the source of all scientific knowledge. They may say that to them there seemed no possibility; upon which will come the question--whence arose their incapacity for seeing it? In the meantime, that the same condition which constitutes the bliss of a child, should also be the essential bliss of a man, is incomprehensible to him in whom the child is dead, or so fast asleep that nothing but a trumpet of terror can awake him. That the rules of the nursery--I mean the nursery where the true mother is the present genius, not the hell at the top of a London house--that the rules of the nursery over which broods a wise mother with outspread wings of tenderness, should be the laws also of cosmic order, of a world's well-being, of national greatness, and of all personal dignity, may well be an old-wives'-fable to the man who dabbles at saving the world by science, education, hygiene and other economics. There is a knowledge that will do it, but of that he knows so little, that he will not allow it to be a knowledge at all. Into what would he save the world? His paradise would prove a ten times more miserable condition than that out of which he thought to rescue it.

But any thing that gives objectivity to trouble, that lifts the cloud so far that, if but for a moment, it shows itself a cloud, instead of being felt an enveloping, penetrating, palsying mist--setting it where the mind can in its turn prey upon it, can play with it, paint it, may come to sing of it, is a great help toward what health may yet be possible for the troubled soul. With a woman's instinct, Dorothy borrowed from the curate a volume of a certain more attractive edition of Shakespeare than she herself possessed, and left it in Juliet's way, so arranged that it should open at the tragedy of Othello. She thought that, if she could be drawn into sympathy with suffering like, but different and apart from her own, it would take her a little out of herself, and might lighten the pressure of her load. Now Juliet had never read a play of Shakespeare in her life, and knew Othello only after the vulgar interpretation, as the type, that is, of jealousy; but when, in a pause of the vague reverie of feeling which she called thought, a touch of ennui supervening upon suffering, she began to read the play, the condition of her own heart afforded her the insight necessary for descrying more truly the Othello of Shakespeare's mind. She wept for Desdemona's innocence and hard fate; but she pitied more the far harder fate of Othello, and found the death of both a consolation for the trouble their troubles had stirred up in her.

The curate was in the habit of scribbling on his books, and at the end of the play, which left a large blank on the page, had written a few verses: as she sat dreaming over the tragedy, Juliet almost unconsciously took them in. They were these:

In the hot hell o'
Jealousy shines Othello--
Love in despair,
An angel in flames!
While pure Desdemona
Waits him alone, a
Ghost in the air,
White with his blames.

Becoming suddenly aware of their import, she burst out weeping afresh, but with a very different weeping--Ah, if it might be so! Soon then had the repentant Othello, rushing after his wife, explained all, and received easiest pardon: he had but killed her. Her Paul would not even do that for her! He did not love her enough for that. If she had but thrown herself indeed into the lake, then perhaps--who could tell!--she might now be nearer to him than she should ever be in this world.

All the time, Dorothy was much and vainly exercised as to what might become possible for the bringing of them together again. But it was not as if any misunderstanding had arisen between them: such a difficulty might any moment be removed by an explanation. The thing that divided them was the original misunderstanding, which lies, deep and black as the pit, between every soul and the soul next it, where self and not God is the final thought. The gulf is forever crossed by "bright shoots of everlastingness," the lightnings of involuntary affection; but nothing less than the willed love of an infinite devotion will serve to close it; any moment it may be lighted up from beneath, and the horrible distance between them be laid bare. Into this gulf it was that, with absolute gift of himself, the Lord, doing like his Father, cast Himself; and by such devotion alone can His disciples become fellow-workers with Him, help to slay the evil self in the world, and rouse the holy self to like sacrifice, that the true, the eternal life of men, may arise jubilant and crowned. Then is the old man of claims and rights and disputes and fears, re-born a child whose are all things and who claims and fears nothing.

In ignorance of Faber's mood, whether he mourned over his harshness, or justified himself in resentment, Dorothy could but wait, and turned herself again to think what could be done for the consolation of her friend.

Could she, knowing her prayer might be one which God would not grant, urge her to pray! For herself, she knew, if there was a God, what she desired must be in accordance with His will; but if Juliet cried to him to give her back her husband, and He did not, would not the silent refusal, the deaf ear of Heaven, send back the cry in settled despair upon her spirit? With her own fear Dorothy feared for her friend. She had not yet come to see that, in whatever trouble a man may find himself, the natural thing being to make his request known, his brother may heartily tell him to pray. Why, what can a man do but pray? He is here--helpless; and his Origin, the breather of his soul, his God, may be somewhere. And what else should he pray about but the thing that troubles him? Not surely the thing that does not trouble him? What is the trouble there for, but to make him cry? It is the pull of God at his being. Let a man only pray. Prayer is the sound to which not merely is the ear of the Father open, but for which that ear is listening. Let him pray for the thing he thinks he needs: for what else, I repeat, can he pray? Let a man cry for that in whose loss life is growing black: the heart of the Father is open. Only let the man know that, even for his prayer, the Father will not give him a stone. But let the man pray, and let God see to it how to answer him. If in his childishness and ignorance he should ask for a serpent, he will not give him a serpent. But it may yet be the Father will find some way of giving him his heart's desire. God only knows how rich God is in power of gift. See what He has done to make Himself able to give to His own heart's desire. The giving of His Son was as the knife with which He would divide Himself amongst His children. He knows, He only, the heart, the needs, the deep desires, the hungry eternity, of each of them all. Therefore let every man ask of God, Who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not--and see at least what will come of it.

But he will speak like one of the foolish if he say thus: "Let God hear me, and give me my desire, and I will trust in Him." That would be to tempt the Lord his God. If a father gives his children their will instead of his, they may well turn on him again and say: "Was it then the part of a father to give me a scorpion because, not knowing what it was, I asked for it? I besought him for a fancied joy, and lo! it is a sorrow for evermore!"

But it may be that sometimes God indeed does so, and to such a possible complaint has this reply in Himself: "I gave thee what thou wouldst, because not otherwise could I teach the stiff-necked his folly. Hadst thou been patient, I would have made the thing a joy ere I gave it thee; I would have changed the scorpion into a golden beetle, set with rubies and sapphires. Have thou patience now."

One thing is clear, that poor Juliet, like most women, and more men, would never have begun to learn any thing worth learning, if she had not been brought into genuine, downright trouble. Indeed I am not sure but some of those who seem so good as to require no trouble, are just those who have already been most severely tried.

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