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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWeighed And Wanting - Chapter 24. Out Of The Frying-Pan
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Weighed And Wanting - Chapter 24. Out Of The Frying-Pan Post by :voltaire11 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1880

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Weighed And Wanting - Chapter 24. Out Of The Frying-Pan


There is another person in my narrative whom the tide of her destiny seemed now to have caught and to be bearing more swiftly somewhither. Unable, as she concluded, any longer to endure a life bounded by the espionage, distrust, and ill-tempered rebuke of the two wretched dragons whose misery was their best friend--saving them from foreboded want by killing them while yet they had something to live upon--Amy Amber did at last as she had threatened, and one morning when, in amazement that she was so late, they called her, they received no answer, neither could find her in or out of the house. She had applied to a friend in London, and following her advice, had taken the cheap train overnight, and gone to her. She met her, took her home; and helped her in seeking a situation--with the result that, before many days were over, her appearance and manners being altogether in her favor, she obtained her desire--a place behind a counter in one of the largest shops. There she was kept hard at work, and the hours of business were long; but the labor was by no means too much for the fine health and spirits which now blossomed in her threefold.

Her aunts raised an outcry of horror and dismay first, then of reprobation, accusing her of many things, and among the rest of those faults of which they were in reality themselves guilty toward her; for as to the gratitude and affection we are so ready to claim and so slow to pay, the debt was great on their part, and very small indeed on hers. They wrote to her guardians of course to acquaint them with the shocking fact of her flight, but dwelt far more upon the badness of her behavior to them from the first, the rapidity with which she had deteriorated, and the ghastliness of their convictions as to the depth of the degradation she had preferred to the shelter of their--very moth-eaten--wings.

The younger of the two guardians was a man of business, and at once took proper measures for discovering her. It was not, however, before the lapse of several months that he succeeded. By that time her employers were so well satisfied with her, that after an interview with them, followed by one with the girl herself, he was convinced that she was much better where she was than with her aunts, whose dispositions were not unknown to him. So he left her in peace.

Knowing nothing of London, interested in all she saw, and much occupied with her new way of life, Amy did not at once go to find her friend Miss Raymount. She often recalled her kindness, often dreamed of the beautiful lady who had let her brush her hair, and always intended to seek her as soon as she could feel at leisure. But the time wore away, and still she had not gone.

She continued a well behaved girl, went regularly to church on Sundays, had many friends but few intimates, and lived with the girl who had been her friend before her mother's death. Her new way of life was, no doubt, from its lack of home-ties, and of the restraining if not always elevating influences of older people, dangerous: no kite can soar without the pull of the string; but danger is less often ruin than some people think; and the propt house is not the safest in the row. He who can walk without falling, will learn to walk the better that his road is not always of the smoothest; and, as Sir Philip Sidney says, "The journey of high honor lies not in plain ways."

Such were the respective conditions of Amy Amber and the Frankses, when the Raymounts left London. The shades were gathering around the family; the girl had passed from the shadow into the shine. Hester knew nothing of the state of either, nor had they ever belonged to her flock. It was not at all for them she was troubled in the midst of the peace and rest of her new life when she felt like a shepherd compelled to leave his sheep in the wilderness. Amid the sweet delights of sunshine, room, air, grass, trees, flowers, music, and the precious stores of an old library, every now and then she would all at once imagine herself a herald that had turned aside into the garden of the enchantress. Were not her poor friends the more sorely tried that she was dwelling at ease? Could it be right? Yet for the present she could see no way of reaching them. All she could do for them was to cultivate her gifts, in the hope of one day returning to them the more valuable for the separation.

One good thing that came of the change was that she and her father were drawn in the quiet of this country life closer together. When Mr. Raymount's hours of writing were over, he missed the more busy life into which he had been able to turn at will, and needed a companion. His wife not being able to go with him, he naturally turned to his daughter, and they took their walks abroad together. In these Hester learned much. Her father was not chiefly occupied with the best things, but he was both of a learning and a teaching nature. There are few that in any true sense can be said to be alive: of Mr. Raymount it might be said that he was coming alive; and it was no small consolation to Hester to get thus nearer to him. Like the rest of his children she had been a little afraid of him, and fear, though it may dig deeper the foundations of love, chokes its passages; she was astonished to find before a month was over, how much of companions as well as friends they had become to each other.

Most fathers know little of their sons and less of their daughters. Because familiar with every feature of their faces, every movement of their bodies, and the character of their every habitual pose, they take it for granted they know them! Doubtless knowledge of the person does through the body pass into the beholder, but there are few parents who might not make discoveries in their children which would surprise them. Some such discoveries Mr. Raymount began to make in Hester.

She kept up a steady correspondence with Miss Dasomma, and that also was a great help to her. She had a note now and then from Mr. Vavasor, and that was no help. A little present of music was generally its pretext. He dared not trust himself to write to her about anything else--not from the fear of saying more than was prudent, but because, not even yet feeling to know what she would think about this or that, he was afraid of encountering her disapprobation. In music he thought he did understand her, but was in truth far from understanding her. For to understand a person in any one thing, we must at least be capable of understanding him in everything. Even the bits of news he ventured to send her, all concerned the musical world--except when he referred now and then to Cornelius he never omitted to mention his having been to his aunt's. Hester was always glad when she saw his writing, and always disappointed with the letter--she could hardly have said why, for she never expected it to go beyond the surfaces of things: he was not yet sufficiently at home with her, she thought, to lay open the stores of his heart and mind--as he would doubtless have been able to do more readily had he had a sister to draw him out!

Vavasor found himself in her absence haunted with her face, her form, her voice, her song, her music,--sometimes with the peace and power of her presence, and the uplifting influence she exercised upon him, It is possible for a man to fall in love with a woman he is centuries from being able to understand. But how the form of such a woman must be dwarfed in the camera of such a man's mind! It is the falsehood of the silliest poetry to say he defies the image of his beloved. He is but a telescope turned wrong end upon her. If such a man could see such a woman after her true proportions, and not as the puppet he imagines her, thinking his own small great-things of her, he would not be able to love her at all. To see how he sees her--to get a glimpse of the shrunken creature he has to make of her ere, through his proud door, he can get her into the straightened cellar of his poor, pinched heart, would be enough to secure any such woman from the possibility of falling in love with such a man. Hester knew that in some directions he was much undeveloped; but she thought she could help him; and had he thoroughly believed in and loved her, which he was not capable of doing, she could have helped him. But a vision of the kind of creature he was capable of loving--therefore the kind of creature he imagined her in loving her, would have been--to use a low but expressive phrase--_a sickener to her_.

At length, in one of his brief communications, he mentioned that his yearly resurrection was at hand--his butterfly-month he called it--when he ceased for the time to be a caterpillar, and became a creature of the upper world, reveling in the light and air of summer. He must go northward, he said; he wanted not a little bracing for the heats of the autumnal city. The memories of Burcliff drew him potently thither, but would be too sadly met by its realities. He had an invitation to the opposite coast which he thought he would accept. He did not know exactly where Paradise lay, but if he found it within accessible distance, he hoped her parents would allow him to call some morning and be happy for an hour or two.

Hester answered that her father and mother would be glad to see him, and if he were inclined to spend a day or two, there was a beautiful country to show him. If his holiday happened again to coincide with Corney's, perhaps they would come down together. If he cared for sketching, there was no end of picturesque spots as well as fine landscapes.

Of music or singing she said not a word.

By return of post came a grateful acceptance. About a week after, they heard from Cornelius that his holiday was not to make its appearance before vile November. He did not inform them that he sought an exchange with a clerk whose holiday fell in the said undesirable month.

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