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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWeighed And Wanting - Chapter 53. A Sad Beginning
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Weighed And Wanting - Chapter 53. A Sad Beginning Post by :voltaire11 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :2364

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Weighed And Wanting - Chapter 53. A Sad Beginning


Towards morning he went to bed, and slept late--heavily and unreposefully; and, alas! when he woke, there was the old feeling returned! How _could he forgive the son that had so disgraced him!

Instead of betaking himself afresh to the living strength, he began--not directly to fight himself, but to try to argue himself right, persuading himself on philosophical grounds that it was better to forgive his son; that it was the part of a wise man, the part of one who had respect to his own dignity, to abstain from harshness, nor drive the youth to despair: he was his own son--he must do what he could for him!--and so on! But he had little success. Anger and pride were too much for him. His breakfast was taken to him in the study, and there Hester found him, an hour after, with it untasted. He submitted to her embrace, but scarcely spoke, and asked nothing about Corney. Hester felt sadly chilled, and very hopeless. But she had begun to learn that one of the principal parts of faith is patience, and that the setting of wrong things right is so far from easy that not even God can do it all at once. But time is nothing to him who sees the end from the beginning; he does not grudge thousands of years of labor. The things he cares to do for us require our co-operation, and that makes the great difficulty: we are such poor fellow-workers with him! All that seems to deny his presence and labour only, necessitates a larger theory of that presence and labour. Yet time lies heavy on the young especially, and Hester left the room with a heavy heart.

The only way in such stubbornnesses of the spirit, when we cannot feel that we are wrong, is to open our hearts, in silence and loneliness and prayer, to the influences from above--stronger for the right than any for the wrong; to seek the sweet enablings of the living light to see things as they are--as God sees them, who never is wrong because he has no selfishness, but is the living Love and the living Truth, without whom there would be no love and no truth. To rise humbly glorious above our low self, to choose the yet infant self that is one with Christ, who sought never his own but the things of his father and brother, is the redemption begun, and the inheritance will follow. Mr. Raymount, like most of us, was a long way indeed from this yet. He strove hard to reconcile the memories of the night with the feelings of the morning--strove to realize a state of mind in which a measure of forgiveness to his son blended with a measure of satisfaction to the wounded pride he called paternal dignity. How could he take his son to his bosom as he was? he asked---but did not ask how he was to draw him to repentance! He did not think of the tender entreaty with which, by the mouths of his prophets, God pleads with his people to come back to him. If the father, instead of holding out his arms to the child he would entice to his bosom, folds them on that bosom and turns his back--expectant it may be, but giving no sign of expectancy, the child will hardly suppose him longing to be reconciled. No doubt there are times when and children with whom any show of affection is not only useless but injurious, tending merely to increase their self-importance, and in such case the child should not see the parent at all, but it was the opposite reason that made it better Cornelius should not yet see his father; he would have treated him so that he would only have hated him.

For a father not to forgive is in truth far worse than for a son to need forgiveness; and such a father will of course go from bad to worse as well as the son, except he repent. The shifty, ungenerous spirit of compromise awoke in Raymount. He would be very good, very gentle, very kind to every one else in the house! He would, like Ahab, walk softly; he was not ready to walk uprightly: his forgiveness he would postpone! He knew his feelings towards Corney were wearing out the heart of his wife--but not yet would he yield! There was little Mark, however, he would make more of him, know him better, and make the child know him better! I doubt if to know his father better just then would have been for Mark to love him more.

He went to see how his wife was. Finding that, notwithstanding all she had gone through the day before, she was a trifle better, he felt a little angry and not a little annoyed: what added to his misery was a comfort to her! she was the happier for having her worthless son! In the selfishness of his misery he looked upon this as lack of sympathy with himself. Such weakness vexed him too, in the wife to whom he had for so many years looked up with more than respect, with even unacknowledged reverence. He did not allude to Cornelius, but said he was going for a walk, and went to find Mark--with a vague hope of consolation in the child who had clung to him so confidently in the night. He had forgotten it was not to him _his soul had clung, but to the father of both.

Mark was in the nursery, as the children's room was still called. The two never quarrelled; had they been two Saffies, they would have quarrelled and made it up twenty times a day. When Mark heard his father's step, he bounded to meet him; and when his sweet moonlit rather than sunshiny face appeared at the door, the gloom on his father's yielded a little; the gleam of a momentary smile broke over it, and he said kindly:

"Come, Mark, I want you to go for a walk with me."

"Yes, papa," answered the boy.--"May Saffy come too?"

The father was not equal however to the company of two of his children, and Mark alone proceeded to get ready, while Saffy sulked in a corner.

But he was not doing the right thing in taking him out. He ought to have known that the boy was not able for anything to be called a walk; neither was the weather fit for his going out. But absorbed in his own trouble, the father did not think of his weakness; and Hester not being by to object, away they went. Mark was delighted to be his father's companion, never doubted all was right that he wished, and forgot his weakness as entirely as did his father.

With his heart in such a state the father naturally had next to nothing to say to his boy, and they walked on in silence. The silence did not affect Mark; he was satisfied to be with his father whether he spoke to him or not--too blessed in the long silences between him and God to dislike silence. It was no separation--so long as like speech it was between them. For a long time he was growing tired without knowing it: when weariness became conscious at last, it was all at once, and poor Mark found he could scarcely put one leg past the other.

The sun had been shining when they started--beautiful though not very warm spring-sun, but now it was clouded and rain was threatened. They were in the middle of a bare, lonely moor, easily reached from the house, but of considerable extent, and the wind had begun to blow cold. Sunk in his miserable thoughts, the more miserable that he had now yielded even the pretence of struggle, and relapsed into unforgiving unforgivenness, the father saw nothing of his child's failing strength, but kept trudging on. All at once he became aware that the boy was not by his side. He looked round: he was nowhere visible. Alarmed, he stopped, and turning, called his name aloud. The wind was blowing the other way, and that might be the cause of his hearing no reply. He called again, and this time thought he heard a feeble response. He retraced his steps rapidly.

Some four or five hundred yards back, he came to a hollow, where on a tuft of brown heather, sat Mark, looking as white as the vapour-like moon in the daytime.

His anxiety relieved, the father felt annoyed, and rated the little fellow for stopping behind.

"I wasn't able to keep up, papa," replied Mark. "So I thought I would rest a while, and meet you as you came back."

"You ought to have told me. I shouldn't have brought you had I known you would behave so. Come, get up, we must go home."

"I'm very sorry, papa, but I think I can't."


"There's something gone wrong in my knee."

"Try," said his father, again frightened. Mark had never shown himself whimsical.

He obeyed and rose, but with a little cry dropped on the ground. He had somehow injured his knee that he could not walk a step.

His father stooped to lift him.

"I'll carry you, Markie," he said.

"Oh, no, no, you must not, papa! It will tire you! Set me on that stone, and send Jacob. He carries a sack of meal, and I'm not so heavy as a sack of meal."

His father was already walking homeward with him. The next moment Mark spied the waving of a dress.

"Oh," he cried, "there's Hessie! She will carry me!"

"You little goose!" said his father tenderly, "can she carry you better than I can?"

"She is not stronger than you, papa, because you are a big man; but I think Hessie has more carry in her. She has such strong arms!"

Hester was running, and when she came near was quite out of breath.

She had feared how it would be when she found her father had taken Mark for a walk, and her first feeling was of anger, for she had inherited not a little of her father's spirit: indirectly the black sheep had roused evils in the flock unknown before. Never in her life had Hester been aware of such a feeling as that with which she now hurried to meet her father. When, however, she saw the boy's arms round his father's neck, and his cheek laid against his, her anger went from her, and she was sorry and ashamed, notwithstanding that she knew by Mark's face, of which she understood every light and shade, that he was suffering much.

"Let me take him, papa," she said.

The father had no intention of giving up the child. But before he knew, Mark had stretched his arms to Hester, and was out of his into hers. Instinctively trying to retain him, he hurt him, and the boy gave a little cry. Thereupon with a new pang of pain, and a new sting of resentment, which he knew unreasonable but could not help, he let him go and followed in distressed humiliation.

Hester's heart was very sore because of this new grief, but she saw some hope in it.

"He is too heavy for you, Hester," said her father. "Surely as it is my fault, I ought to bear the penalty!"

"It's no penalty--is it, Markie?" said Hester merrily.

"No, Hessie," replied Mark, almost merrily. "--You don't know how strong Hessie is, papa!"

"Yes, I am very strong. And you ain't heavy--are you, Markie?"

"No," answered Mark; "I feel so light sometimes, I think I could fly; only I don't like to try for fear I couldn't. I like to think perhaps I could."

By and by Hester found, with all her good will, that her strength was of the things that can be shaken, and was obliged to yield him to her father. It was much to his relief, for a sense of moral weakness had invaded him as he followed his children: he was rejected of his family, and had become a nobody in it!

When at length they reached home, Mark was put to bed, and the doctor sent for.

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