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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 2 - Chapter 17. Let Us Pray!
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Thomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 2 - Chapter 17. Let Us Pray! Post by :holipsism Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :2654

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Thomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 2 - Chapter 17. Let Us Pray!

VOLUME II CHAPTER XVII. LET US PRAY!

That was the sole chink in the prison where these two sat immured alone from their kind--unless, indeed, the curate might know of another.

One thing Helen had ground for being certain of--that the curate would tell them no more than he knew. Even George Bascombe, who did not believe one thing he said, counted him an honest man! Might she venture to consult him, putting the case as of a person who had done very wrong--say stolen money or committed forgery or something? Might she not thus gather a little honey of comfort and bring it home to Leopold?

Thinking thus and thus she sat silent; and all the time the suffering eyes were fixed upon her face, looking for no comfort, but finding there all they ever had of rest.

"Are you thinking about the sermon, Helen?" he asked. "What was it you were telling me about it just now? Who preached it?"

"Mr. Wingfold," she answered listlessly.

"Who is Mr. Wingfold?"

"Our curate at the Abbey."

"What sort of man is he?"

"Oh, a man somewhere about thirty--a straightforward, ordinary kind of man."

"Ah!" said Leopld--then added after a moment--"I was hoping he might be an old man, with a grey head, like the brahmin who used to teach me Sanscrit.--I wish I had treated him better, poor old fellow! and learned a little more."

"What does it matter about Sanscrit? Why should you make troubles of trifles?" said Helen, whose trials had at last begun to undermine her temper.

"It was not of the Sanscrit, but the moonshee I was thinking," answered Leopold mildly.

"You darling!" cried Helen, already repentant. But with the revulsion she felt that this state of things could not long continue--she must either lose her senses, or turn into something hateful to herself: the strain was more than she could bear. She MUST speak to somebody, and she would try whether she could not approach the subject with Mr. Wingfold.

But how was she to see him? It would be awkward to call upon him at his lodgings, and she must see him absolutely alone to dare a whisper of what was on her mind.

As she thus reflected, the thought of what people would say, were it remarked that she contrived to meet the curate, brought a shadow of scorn upon her face. Leopold saw the expression, and, sensitive as an ailing woman, said,

"Helen, what HAVE I done to make you look like that?"

"How did I look, my Poldie?" she asked, turning on him eyes like brimming wells of love and tenderness.

"Let me see," answered Leopold; and after a moment's thought replied, "As Milton's Satan might have looked if Mammon had counselled him to make off with the crown-jewels instead of declaring war."

"Ah, Poldie!" cried Helen, delighted at the stray glance of sunshine, and kissing him as she spoke, "you must really be better! I'll tell you what!" she exclaimed joyfully, as a new thought struck her: "As soon as you are able, we will set out for New York--to pay Uncle Tom a visit of course! but we shall never be seen or heard of again. At New York we will change our names, cross to San Francisco, and from there sail for the Sandwich Islands. Perhaps we may be able to find a little one to buy, just big enough for us two; and you shall marry a nice native----"

Her forced gaiety gave way. She burst out weeping afresh, and throwing her arms round him, sobbed--

"Poldie, Poldie! you can pray: cry to God to help us somehow or other; and if there be no God to hear us, then let us die together. There are easy ways of it, Poldie."

"Thank you! thank you, sister dear!" he answered, pressing her to his bosom: "that is the first word of real comfort you have spoken to me. I shall not be afraid if you go with me."

It was indeed a comfort to both of them to remember that there was this alternative equally to the gallows and a long life of gnawing fear and remorse. But it was only to be a last refuge of course. Helen withdrew to the dressing-room, laid herself on her bed, and began to compass how to meet and circumvent the curate, so as by an innocent cunning to wile from him on false pretences what spiritual balm she might so gain for the torn heart and conscience of her brother. There was no doubt it would be genuine, and the best to be had, seeing George Bascombe, who was honesty itself, judged the curate an honest man. But how was it to be done? She could see only one way. With some inconsistency, she resolved to cast herself on his generosity, and yet would not trust him entirely.

She did not go downstairs again, but had her tea with her brother. In the evening her aunt went out to visit some of her pensioners, for it was one of Mrs. Ramshorn's clerical duties to be kind to the poor--a good deal at their expense, I am afraid--and presently George came to the door of the sick-room to beg her to go down and sing to him. Of course, in the house of a dean's relict, no music except sacred must be heard on a Sunday; but to have Helen sing it, George would condescend even to a hymn tune; and there was Handel, for whom he professed a great admiration! What mattered his subjects? He could but compose the sort of thing the court wanted of him, and in order to that, had to fuddle his brains first, poor fellow! So said George at least.

That Leopold might not hear them talking outside his door, a thing which no invalid likes, Helen went downstairs with her cousin; but although she had often sung from Handel for his pleasure, content to reproduce the bare sounds, and caring nothing about the feelings both they and the words represented, she positively refused this evening to gratify him. She must go back to Leopold. She would sing from The Creation if he liked, but nothing out of The Messiah would she or could she sing.

Perhaps she could herself hardly have told why, but George perceived the lingering influence of the morning's sermon, and more vexed than he had ever yet been with her, for he could not endure her to cherish the least prejudice in favour of what he despised, he said he would overtake his aunt, and left the house. The moment he was gone, she went to the piano, and began to sing, "Comfort ye." When she came to "Come unto me," she broke down. But with sudden resolution she rose, and, having opened every door between it and her brother, raised the top of the piano, and then sang, "Come unto me," as she had never sung in her life. Nor did she stop there. At the distance of six of the wide-standing houses, her aunt and cousin heard her singing "Thou didst not leave," with the tone and expression of a prophetess--of a Maenad, George said. She was still singing when he opened the door, but when they reached the drawing-room she was gone. She was kneeling beside her brother.

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