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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWeighed And Wanting - Chapter 35. In London
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Weighed And Wanting - Chapter 35. In London Post by :voltaire11 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :3395

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Weighed And Wanting - Chapter 35. In London

CHAPTER XXXV. IN LONDON

It was much too early to do anything when they arrived. Nor could Hester go to her uncle's house: it was in one of the suburbs, and she would reach it before the household was stirring. They went therefore to Addison square. When they had roused Sarah, the major took his leave of Hester, promising to be with her in a few hours, and betook himself to his hotel.

As she would not be seen at the bank, with the risk of being recognized as the sister of Cornelius and rousing speculation, she begged the major when he came to be her messenger to her uncle, and tell him that she had come from her father, asking him where it would be convenient for him to see her. The major undertook the commission at once, and went without asking a question.

Early in the afternoon her uncle came, and behaved to her very kindly. He was chiefly a man of business, and showing neither by look nor tone that he had sympathy with the trouble she and her parents were in, by his very reticence revealed it. His manner was the colder that he was studiously avoiding the least approximation to remark on the conduct or character of the youth--an abstinence which, however, had a chilling and hopeless effect upon the ardent mind of the sister. At last, when she had given him her father's cheque, with the request that he would himself fill it up with the amount of which he had been robbed, and he with a slight deprecatory smile and shrug had taken it, she ventured to ask what he was going to do in regard to her brother.

"When I take this cheque," answered her uncle, "it indicates that I treat the matter as a debt discharged, and leave him entirely in your father's hands. He must do as he sees fit. I am sorry for you all, and for you especially that you should have had to take an active part in the business. I wish your father could have come up himself. My poor sister!"

"I cannot be glad my father could not come," said Hester, "but I am glad he did not come, for he is so angry with Cornelius that I could almost believe he would have insisted on your prosecuting him. You never saw such indignation as my father's at any wrong done by one man to another--not to say by one like Cornelius to one like you, uncle, who have always been so kind to him! It is a terrible blow! He will never get over it--never! never!"

She broke down, and wept bitterly--the more bitterly that they were her first tears since learning the terrible fact, for she was not one who readily found such relief. To think of their family, of which she was too ready to feel proud, being thus disgraced, with one for its future representative who had not even the commonest honesty, and who, but that his crime had been committed against an indulgent relative, would assuredly, for the sake of the business morals of his associates, if for no other reason, have been prosecuted for felony, was hard to bear! But to one of Hester's deep nature and loyalty to the truth, there were considerations far more sad. How was ever such a child of the darkness to come to love the light? How was one who cared so little for righteousness, one who, in all probability, would only excuse or even justify his crime--if indeed he would trouble himself to do so much--how was one like him to be brought to contrition and rectitude? There was a hope, though a poor one, in the shame he must feel at the disgrace he had brought upon himself. But alas! if the whole thing was to be kept quiet, and the semblance allowed that he had got tired of business and left it, how would even what regenerating power might lie in shame be brought to bear upon him? If not brought to _open shame, he would hold his head as high as ever--be arrogant under the protection of the fact that the disgrace of his family would follow upon the exposure of himself. When her uncle left her, she sat motionless a long time, thinking much but hoping little. The darkness gathered deeper and deeper around her. The ruin of her own promised history seemed imminent upon that of her family. What sun of earthly joy could ever break through such clouds! There was indeed a sun that nothing could cloud, but it seemed to shine far away. Some sorrows seem beyond the reach of consolation, in as much as their causes seem beyond setting right. They can at best, _as it seems_, only be covered over. Forgetfulness alone seems capable of removing their sting, and from that cure every noble mind turns away as unworthy both of itself, and of its Father in heaven. But the human heart has to go through much before it is able to house even a suspicion of the superabounding riches of the creating and saving God. The foolish child thinks there can be nothing where he sees nothing; the human heart feels as if where it cannot devise help, there is none possible to God; as if God like the heart must be content to botch the thing up, and make, as we say, the best of it.

But as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts.

"But what _can be done when--so and so?" says my reader; for, whatever generalities I utter, his hurt seems not the less unapproachable of any help. You think, I answer, that you see all round your own sorrow; whereas much the greater part of the very being you call yours, is as unknown to you as the other side of the moon. It is as impossible you should understand it therefore, its sorrow, as that you should understand God, who alone understands you. Be developed into the divine idea of you; for your grief's sake let God have his way with you, and not only will all be well, but you shall say, "It is well."

It was a sore and dreary time for Hester, alone in the room where she had spent so many happy hours. She sat in a window, looking out upon the leafless trees and the cold gloomy old statue in the midst of them. Frost was upon every twig. A thin sad fog filled the comfortless air. There might be warm happy homes many, but such no more belonged to her world! The fire was burning cheerfully behind her, but her eyes were fixed on the dreary square. She was hardly thinking--only letting thoughts and feelings come and go. What a thing is life and being, when a soul has become but the room in which ghosts hold their revel; when the man is no longer master of himself, can no more say to this or that thought, thou shall come, and thou shall go; but is a slave to his own existence, can neither cease to be, nor order his being--able only in fruitless rebellion to entangle himself yet more in the net he has knotted around him! Such is every one parted from the essential life, who has not the Power by which he lives one with him, holding pure and free and true the soul he sent forth from the depths of his being. I repent me of the ignorance wherein I ever said that God made man out of nothing: there is no nothing out of which to make anything; God is all in all, and he made us out of himself. He who is parted from God has no original nothingness with which to take refuge. He is a live discord, an anti-truth. He is a death fighting against life, and doomed to endless vanity; an opposition to the very power by whose strength yet in him he opposes; a world of contradictions, not greedy after harmony, but greedy for lack of harmony--his being an abyss of positive negation. Not such was Hester, and although her thoughts now came and went without her, they did not come and go without God; and a truth from the depths of her own true being was on its way to console her.

How would her lover receive the news?--that was the agitating question; what would he thereupon do?

She could not at once write to acquaint him with the grief and disgrace that had fallen upon them, for she did not know where precisely he was: his movements were not fixed; and she dreaded the falling of such a letter as she would have to write into any hands except his own.

But another, and far stronger reason against writing to him, made itself presently clear to her mind: if she wrote, she could not know how he received her sad story; and if his mind required making up, which was what she feared, he would have time for it! This would not do! She must communicate the dread defiling fact with her own lips! She must see how he took it! Like Hamlet with the king at the play, "If he but blench, I know my course!" she said. If he showed the slightest change towards her, the least tendency to regard his relation to her as an entanglement, to regret that he had involved himself with the sister of a thief, marry her he should not! That was settled as the earth's course! If he was not to be her earthly refuge in this trouble as in any other, she would none of him! If it should break her heart she would none of him! But break her heart it would not! There were worse evils than losing a lover! There was losing a true man--and that he would not be if she lost him! The behaviour of Cornelius had perhaps made her more capable of doubt; possibly her righteous anger with him inclined her to imagine grounds of anger with another; but probably this feeling of uncertainty with regard to her lover had been prepared for by things that had passed between them since their engagement, but upon which regarding herself as his wife, she had not allowed herself to dwell, turning her thought to the time when, as she imagined, she would be able to do so much more for and with him. And now she was almost in a mood to quarrel with him! Brought to moral bay, she stood with her head high, her soul roused, and every nerve strung to defence. She had not yet cast herself for defence on the care of her Father in heaven, who is jealous for the righteousness of those who love righteousness. But he was not far from her.

Yet deeper into the brooding fit she sank. Weary with her journey and the sleepless night, her brain seemed to work itself; when suddenly came the thought that, after so long a separation, she was at last in the midst of her poor. But how was she to face them now! how hold up her head amongst them! how utter a word of gentlest remonstrance! Who was she to have dared speak to them of the evil of their ways, and the bad influence of an ill-behaved family! But how lightly they bore such ills as that which was now breaking her down with trouble and shame! Even such of them as were honest people, would have this cousin or that uncle, or even a son or the husband _in for so many months, and think only of when they would have him out again! Misfortune had overtaken them! and they loved them no less. The man or the woman was still man or woman, mother or husband to them. Nothing could degrade them beyond the reach of their sympathies! They had no thought of priding themselves against them because they themselves had not transgressed the law, neither of drawing back from them with disgust. And were there not a thousand wrong things done in business and society which had no depressing effect either on those who did them, or those whose friends did them--only because these wrongs not having yet come under the cognizance of law had not yet come to be considered disgraceful? Therewith she felt nearer to her poor than ever before, and it comforted her. The bare soul of humanity comforted her. She was not merely of the same flesh and blood with them--not even of the same soul and spirit only, but of the same failing, sinning, blundering breed; and that not alone in the general way of sin, ever and again forsaking the fountain of living water, and betaking herself to some cistern, but in their individual sins was she not their near relative? Their shame was hers: the son of her mother, the son of her father was a thief! She was and would be more one with them than ever before! If they made less of crime in another, they also made less of innocence from it in themselves! Was it not even better to do wrong, she asked herself, than to think it a very grand thing not to do it? What merit was there in being what it would be contemptible not to be? The Lord Christ could get nearer to the publican than the Pharisee, to the woman that was a sinner than the self-righteous honest woman! The Pharisee was a good man, but he thought it such a fine thing to be good that God did not like him nearly so well as the other who thought it a sad thing to be bad! Let her but get among her nice, honest, wicked poor ones, out of this atmosphere of pretence and appearance, and she would breathe again! She dropped upon her knees, and cried to her Father in heaven to make her heart clean altogether, to deliver her from everything mean and faithless, to make her turn from any shadow of ill as thoroughly as she would have her brother repent of the stealing that made them all so ashamed. Like a woman in the wrong she drew nigh the feet of her master; she too was a sinner; her heart needed his cleansing as much as any!

And with that came another God-given thought of self-accusing. For suddenly she perceived that self had been leading her astray: she was tender towards those farther from her, hard towards the one nearer to her! It was easy to be indulgent towards those whose evil did not touch herself: to the son of her own mother she was severe and indignant! If she condemned him, who would help his mother to give him the love of which he stood in the sorer need that he was unworthy of it? Corney whom she had nursed as a baby--who used to crow when she appeared--could it be that she who had then loved him so dearly had ceased and was loving him no more? True, he had grown to be teasing and trying in every way, seeming to despise her and all women together; but was not that part of the evil disease that clung fast to him? If God were to do like her, how many would be giving honour to his Son? But God knew all the difficulties that beset men, and gave them fair play when sisters did not: he would redeem Corney yet! But was it possible he should ever wake to see how ugly his conduct had been? It _seemed impossible; but surely there were powers in God's heart that had not yet been brought to bear upon him! Perhaps this, was one of them--letting him disgrace himself! If he could but be made ashamed of himself there would be hope! And in the meantime she must get the beam out of her own eye, that she might see to take the mote or the beam, whichever it might be, out of Corney's! Again she fell upon her knees, and prayed God to enable her. Corney was her brother, and must for ever be her brother, were he the worst thief under the sun! God would see to their honor or disgrace; what she had to do was to be a sister! She rose determined that she would not go home till she had done all she could to find him; that the judgment of God should henceforth alone be hers, and the judgment of the world nothing to her for evermore.

Presently the fact, which had at various times cast a dim presence up her horizon without thoroughly attracting her attention, became plain to her--that she had in part been drawn towards her lover because of his social position. Certainly without loving him, she would never have consented to marry him for that, but had she not come the more readily to love him because of that? Had it not passed him within certain defences which would otherwise have held out? Had he not been an earl in prospect, were there not some things in him which would have more repelled her, as not manifesting the highest order of humanity? Would she, for instance, but for that, have tried so much to like his verses? Clearly she must take her place with the sinners!

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