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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 2 - Chapter 24. Willing Confidence
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Thomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 2 - Chapter 24. Willing Confidence Post by :holipsism Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :905

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Thomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 2 - Chapter 24. Willing Confidence

VOLUME II CHAPTER XXIV. WILLING CONFIDENCE

"Come," said Helen, re-entering, and the curate rose and followed her.

The moment he turned the corner of the bed and saw the face on the pillow, he knew in his soul that Helen was right, and that that was no wicked youth who lay before him--one, however, who might well have been passion-driven. There was the dark complexion and the great soft yet wild eyes that came of tropical blood. Had not Helen so plainly spoken of her brother, however, he would have thought he saw before him a woman. The worn, troubled, appealing light that overflowed rather than shone from his eyes, went straight to the curate's heart.

Wingfold had had a brother, the only being in the world he had ever loved tenderly; he had died young, and a thin film of ice had since gathered over the well of his affections; but now suddenly this ice broke and vanished, and his heart yearned over the suffering youth. He had himself been crying to God, not seldom in sore trouble, and now, ere, as it seemed, he had himself been heard, here was a sad brother crying to him for help. Nor was this all; the reading of the gospel story had roused in his heart a strange yet most natural longing after the face of that man of whom he read such lovely things, and thence, unknown to himself, had come a reverence and a love for his kind, which now first sprang awake to his consciousness in the feeling that drew him towards Leopold.

Softly he approached the bed, his face full of tenderness and strong pity. The lad, weak with protracted illness and mental torture, gave one look in his face, and stretched out both his arms to him. How could the curate give him but a hand? He put his arms round him as if he had been a child.

"I knew you would come," sobbed Lingard.

"What else should I do but come?" returned Wingfold.

"I have seen you somewhere before," said Lingard--"in one of my dreams, I suppose."

Then, sinking his voice to a whisper, he added:

"Do you know you came in close behind HER? She looked round and saw you, and vanished!"

Wingfold did not even try to guess at his meaning.

"Hush, my dear fellow!" he said; "I must not let you talk wildly, or the doctor might forbid my seeing you."

"I am not talking a bit wildly," returned Leopold. "I am as quiet as a mountain-top. Ah! when I AM wild--if you saw me then, you might say so!"

Wingfold sat down on the side of the bed, and took the thin, hot hand next him in his own firm, cool one.

"Come now," he said, "tell me all about it. Or shall your sister tell me?--Come here, please, Miss Lingard."

"No, no!" cried Leopold hastily; "I will tell you myself. My poor sister could not bear to tell it you. It would kill her.--But how am I to know you will not get up and walk out the moment you have a glimpse of what is coming?"

"I would as soon leave a child burning in the fire, and go out and shut the door," said Wingfold.

"You can go now, Helen," said Lingard very quietly. "Why should you be tortured over again? You needn't mind leaving me. Mr. Wingfold will take care of me."

Helen left the room, with one anxious look at her brother as she went.

Without a moment's further delay, Leopold began, and in wonderfully direct and unbroken narrative, told the sad evil tale as he had formerly told it to his sister, only more consecutively and quietly. Possibly his anxiety as to how the listener would receive it, served, by dividing him between two emotions, to keep the reuttered tale from overpowering him with freshened vividness. All the time, he kept watching Wingfold's face, the expressions of which the curate felt those eyes were reading like a book.

He was so well prepared, however, that no expression of surprise, no reflex of its ghastfulness met Leopold's gaze, and he went on to the end without a pause even. When he had finished, both sat silent, looking in each other's eyes, Wingfold's beaming with compassion, and Lingard's glimmering with doubtful, anxious inquiry and appeal. At length Wingfold said:

"And what do you think I can do for you?"

"I don't know. I thought you could tell me something. I cannot live like this! If I had but thought before I did it, and killed myself instead of her! It would have done so much better! Of course I should be in hell now, but that would be all right, and this is all wrong. I have no right to be lying here and Emmeline in her grave. I know I deserve to be miserable for ever and ever, and I don't want not to be miserable--that is all right--but there is something in this wretchedness that I cannot bear. Tell me something to make me able to endure my misery. That is what you can do for me. I don't want to go mad. And what is worst of all, I have made my sister miserable, and I can't bear to see it. She is wasting away with it. And besides I fancy she loves George Bascombe--and who would marry the sister of a murderer? And now she has begun to come to me again--in the daytime--I mean Emmeline!--or I have begun to see her again--I don't know which;--perhaps she is always there, only I don't always see her--and it don't much matter which. Only if other people were to see her!--While she is there nothing could persuade me I do not see her, but afterwards I am not so sure that I did. And at night I keep dreaming the horrible thing over and over again; and the agony is to think I shall never get rid of it, and never never feel clean again. To be for ever and ever a murderer and people not know it, is more than I CAN bear."

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