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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 1 - Chapter 28. Sisterhood
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Thomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 1 - Chapter 28. Sisterhood Post by :Jay_Jennings Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :3372

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Thomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 1 - Chapter 28. Sisterhood

VOLUME I CHAPTER XXVIII. SISTERHOOD

"Well, Poldie, after all I would rather be you than she!" cried Helen indignantly, when she had learned the whole story.

It was far from the wisest thing to say, but she meant it, and clasped her brother to her bosom.

Straightway the poor fellow began to search for all that man could utter in excuse, nay in justification, not of himself, but of the woman he had murdered, appropriating all the blame. But Helen had recognised in Emmeline the selfishness which is the essential murderer, nor did it render her more lenient towards her that the same moment, with a start of horror, she caught a transient glimpse of the same in herself. But the discovery wrought in the other direction, and the tenderness she now lavished upon Leopold left all his hopes far behind. Her brother's sin had broken wide the feebly-flowing springs of her conscience, and she saw that in idleness and ease and drowsiness of soul, she had been forgetting and neglecting even the being she loved best in the universe. In the rushing confluence of love, truth, and indignation, to atone for years of half-love, half-indifference, as the past now appeared to her, she would have spoiled him terribly, heaping on him caresses and assurances that he was far the less guilty and the more injured of the two; but Leopold's strength was exhausted, and he fell back in a faint.

While she was occupied with his restoration many things passed through her mind. Amongst the rest she saw it would be impossible for her to look after him sufficiently where he was, that the difficulty of feeding him even would be great, that very likely he was on the borders of an illness, when he would require constant attention, that the danger of discovery was great--in short, that some better measures must be taken for his protection and the possibility of her ministrations. If she had but a friend to consult! Ever that thought returned. Alas! she had none on whose counsel or discretion either she could depend. When at length he opened his eyes, she told him she must leave him now, but when it was dark she would come again, and stay with him till dawn. Feebly he assented, seeming but half aware of what she said, and again closed his eyes. While he lay thus, she gained possession of his knife. It left its sheath behind it, and she put it naked in her pocket. As she went from the room, feeling like a mother abandoning her child in a wolf-haunted forest, his eyes followed her to the door with a longing, wild, hungry look, and she felt the look following her still through the wood and across the park and into her chamber, while the knife in her pocket felt like a spellbound demon waiting his chance to work them both a mischief. She locked her door and took it out, and as she put it carefully away, fearful lest any attempt to destroy it might lead to its discovery, she caught sight of her brother's name engraved in full upon the silver mounting of the handle. "What if he had left it behind him!" she thought with a shudder.

But a reassuring strength had risen in her mind with Leopold's disclosure. More than once on her way home she caught herself reasoning that the poor boy had not been to blame at all--that he could not help it--that she had deserved nothing less. Her conscience speedily told her that in consenting to such a thought, she herself would be a murderess. Love her brother she must; excuse him she might, for honest excuse is only justice; but to uphold the deed would be to take the part of hell against heaven. Still the murder did not, would not seem so frightful after she had heard the whole tale, and she found it now required far less effort to face her aunt. If she was not the protectress of the innocent, she was of the grievously wronged, and the worst wrong done him was the crime he had been driven to do. She lay down and slept until dinner time, woke refreshed, and sustained her part during the slow meal, neartened by the expectation of seeing her brother again and in circumstance of less anxiety when the friendly darkness had come, and all eyes but theirs were closed. She talked to her aunt and a lady who dined with them as if she had the freest heart in the world; the time passed; the converse waned; the hour arrived; adieus were said; drowsiness came. All the world of Glaston was asleep; the night on her nest was brooding upon the egg of to-morrow; the moon was in darkness; and the wind was blowing upon Helen's hot forehead, as she slid like a thief across the park.

Her mind was in a tumult of mingled feelings, all gathered about the form of her precious brother. One moment she felt herself ministering to the father she had loved so dearly, in protecting his son; the next the thought of her father had vanished, and all was love for the boy whose memories filled the shadow of her childhood; about whom she had dreamed night after night as he crossed the great sea to come to her; who had crept into her arms timidly, and straightway turned into the daintiest merriest playmate; who had charmed her even in his hot-blooded rages, when he rushed at her with whatever was in his hand at the moment. Then she had laughed and dared him; now she shuddered to remember. Again, and this was the feeling that generally prevailed, she was a vessel overflowing with the mere woman-passion of protection: the wronged, abused, maddened, oppressed, hunted human thing was dependent upon her, and her alone, for any help or safety he was ever to find. Sometimes it was the love of a mother for her sick child; sometimes that of a tigress crouching over her wounded cub and licking its hurts. All was coloured with admiration of his beauty and grace, and mingled with boundless pity for their sad overclouding and defeature! Nor was the sense of wrong to herself in wrong to her own flesh and blood wanting. The sum of all was a passionate devotion of her being to the service of her brother.

I suspect that at root the loves of the noble wife, the great-souled mother, and the true sister, are one. Anyhow, they are all but glints on the ruffled waters of humanity of the one changeless enduring Light.

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