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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 2 - Chapter 21. Helen Alone
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Thomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 2 - Chapter 21. Helen Alone Post by :holipsism Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :3183

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Thomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 2 - Chapter 21. Helen Alone

VOLUME II CHAPTER XXI. HELEN ALONE

Helen tottered to a little summer-house in the garden, which had been her best retreat since she had given her room to her brother, and there seated herself to regain breath and composure ere she went to him. She had sought the door of Paradise, and the door of hell had been opened to her! If the frightful idea which, she did not doubt, had already suggested itself to Leopold, should now be encouraged, there was nothing but black madness before her! Her Poldie on the scaffold! God in heaven! Infinitely rather would she poison herself and him! Then she remembered how pleased and consoled he had been when she said something about their dying together, and that reassured her a little: no, she was certain Leopold would never yield himself to public shame! But she must take care that foolish, extravagant curate should not come near him. There was no knowing to what he might persuade him! Poor Poldie was so easily led by any show of nobility--anything that looked grand or self-sacrificing!

Helen's only knowledge of guilt came from the pale image of it lifted above her horizon by the refraction of her sympathy. She did not know, perhaps never would understand the ghastly horror of conscious guilt, besides which there is no evil else. Agonies of injury a man may endure, and, so far from being overwhelmed, rise above them tenfold a man, who, were he to awake to the self-knowledge of a crime, would sink into a heap of ruin. Then indeed, if there be no God, or one that has not an infinite power of setting right that which has gone wrong with his work, then indeed welcome the faith, for faith it may then be called, of such as say there is no hereafter! Helen did not know to what gulfs of personal shame, nay, to what summits of public execration, a man may be glad to flee for refuge from the fangs of home-born guilt--if so be there is any refuge to be found in either. And some kind of refuge there does seem to be. Strange it is and true that in publicity itself lies some relief from the gnawing of the worm--as if even a cursing humanity were a barrier of protection between the torn soul and its crime. It flees to its kind for shelter from itself. Hence, I imagine, in part, may the coolness of some criminals be accounted for. Their quietness is the relief brought by confession--even confession but to their fellows. Is it that the crime seems then lifted a little from their shoulders, and its weight shared by the ace?

Helen had hoped that the man who had spoken in public so tenderly, and at the same time so powerfully, of the saving heart of the universe, that would have no divisions of pride, no scatterings of hate, but of many would make one, would in private have spoken yet sweeter words of hope and consolation, which she might have carried home in gladness to her sick-souled brother, to comfort and strengthen him--words of might to allay the burning of the poison within him, and make him feel that after all there was yet a place for him in the universe, and that he was no outcast of Gehenna. But instead of such words of gentle might, like those of the man of whom he was so fond of talking, he had only spoken drearily of duty, hinting at a horror that would plunge the whole ancient family into a hell of dishonour and contempt! It did indeed show what mere heartless windbags of effete theology those priests were! Skeletons they were, and no human beings at all!--Her father!--the thought of him was distraction! Her mother! Oh, if Leopold had had her mother for his too, instead of the dark-skinned woman with the flashing eyes, he would never have brought this upon them! It was all his mother's fault--the fault of her race--and of the horrible drug her people had taught him to take! And was he to go and confess it, and be tried for it, and be--? Great God!--And here was the priest actually counselling what was worse than any suicide!

Suddenly, however, it occurred to her that the curate had had no knowledge of the facts of the case, and had therefore been compelled to talk at random. It was impossible he should suspect the crime of which her brother had been guilty, and therefore could not know the frightful consequences of such a confession as he had counselled. Had she not better then tell him all, and so gather from him some right and reasonable advice for the soothing of the agonies of her poor broken-winged angel? But alas! what security had she that a man capable of such priestly sevei'ity and heartlessness--her terrors made her thus inconsequent--would not himself betray the all but innocent sufferer to the vengeance of justice so called? No; she would venture no farther. Sooner would she go to George Bascombe--from whom she not only could look for no spiritual comfort, but whose theories were so cruel against culprits of all sorts! Alas, alas! she was alone! absolutely alone in the great waste, death-eyed universe!--But for a man to talk so of the tenderness of Jesus Christ, and then serve her as the curate had done--it was indeed shameless! HE would never have treated a poor wretched woman like that!--And as she said thus to herself, again the words sounded in the ear of her heart: 'COME UNTO ME, ALL YE THAT LABOUR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST.' Whence came the voice? From her memory, or from that inner chamber of the spirit which the one spirit-bearing spirit keeps for his own in every house that he builds--alas so long in most human houses shut away from the rest of the rooms and forgotten, or recollected with uneasiness as a lumber-closet in which lie too many things that had better not be looked into? But what matter where the voice that had said them, so long as the words were true, and she might believe them!--Whatever is true CAN be believed of the true heart.

Ere she knew, Helen was on her knees, with her head on the chair, yet once more crying to the hearer of cries--possible or impossible being she knew not in the least, but words reported of him had given birth to the cry--to help her in her dire need.

Instead of any word, or thought even, coming to her that might be fancied an answer, she was scared from her knees by an approaching step---that of the house-keeper come to look for her with the message from her aunt that Leopold was more restless than usual, not at all like himself, and she could do nothing with him.

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