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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPaul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 32. The Old House Of Glaston
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Paul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 32. The Old House Of Glaston Post by :Sunil_Tanna Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :2886

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Paul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 32. The Old House Of Glaston

CHAPTER XXXII. THE OLD HOUSE OF GLASTON

The same evening Dorothy and her father walked to the Old House. Already the place looked much changed. The very day the deeds were signed, Mr. Drake, who was not the man to postpone action a moment after the time for it was come, had set men at work upon the substantial repairs. The house was originally so well built that these were not so heavy as might have been expected, and when completed they made little show of change. The garden, however, looked quite another thing, for it had lifted itself up from the wilderness in which it was suffocated, reviving like a repentant soul reborn. Under its owner's keen watch, its ancient plan had been rigidly regarded, its ancient features carefully retained. The old bushes were well trimmed, but as yet nothing live, except weeds, had been uprooted. The hedges and borders, of yew and holly and box, tall and broad, looked very bare and broken and patchy; but now that the shears had, after so long a season of neglect, removed the gathered shade, the naked stems and branches would again send out the young shoots of the spring, a new birth would begin everywhere, and the old garden would dawn anew. For all his lack of sympathy with the older forms of religious economy in the country, a thing, alas! too easy to account for, the minister yet loved the past and felt its mystery. He said once in a sermon--and it gave offense to more than one of his deacons, for they scented in it _Germanism_,--"The love of the past, the desire of the future, and the enjoyment of the present, make an eternity, in which time is absorbed, its lapse lapses, and man partakes of the immortality of his Maker. In each present personal being, we have the whole past of our generation inclosed, to be re-developed with endless difference in each individuality. Hence perhaps it comes that, every now and then, into our consciousnesses float strange odors of feeling, strange tones as of bygone affections, strange glimmers as of forgotten truths, strange mental sensations of indescribable sort and texture. Friends, I should be a terror to myself, did I not believe that wherever my dim consciousness may come to itself, God is there."

Dorothy would have hastened the lighter repairs inside the house as well, so as to get into it as soon as possible; but her father very wisely argued that it would be a pity to get the house in good condition, and then, as soon as they went into it, and began to find how it could be altered better to suit their tastes and necessities, have to destroy a great part of what had just been done. His plan, therefore, was to leave the house for the winter, now it was weather-tight, and with the first of the summer partly occupy it as it was, find out its faults and capabilities, and have it gradually repaired and altered to their minds and requirements. There would in this way be plenty of time to talk about every thing, even to the merest suggestion of fancy, and discover what they would really like.

But ever since the place had been theirs, Dorothy had been in the habit of going almost daily to the house, with her book and her work, sitting now in this, now in that empty room, undisturbed by the noises of the workmen, chiefly outside: the foreman was a member of her father's church, a devout man, and she knew every one of his people. She had taken a strange fancy to those empty rooms: perhaps she felt them like her own heart, waiting for something to come and fill them with life. Nor was there any thing to prevent her, though the work was over for a time, from indulging herself in going there still, as often as she pleased, and she would remain there for hours, sometimes nearly the whole day. In her present condition of mind and heart, she desired and needed solitude: she was one of those who when troubled rush from their fellows, and, urged by the human instinct after the divine, seek refuge in loneliness--the cave on Horeb, the top of Mount Sinai, the closet with shut door--any lonely place where, unseen, and dreading no eye, the heart may call aloud to the God hidden behind the veil of the things that do appear.

How different, yet how fit to merge in a mutual sympathy, were the thoughts of the two, as they wandered about the place that evening! Dorothy was thinking her commonest thought--how happy she could be if only she knew there was a Will central to the universe, willing all that came to her--good or seeming-bad--a Will whom she might love and thank for _all things. He would be to her no God whom she could thank only when He sent her what was pleasant. She must be able to thank Him for every thing, or she could thank Him for nothing.

Her father was saying to himself he could not have believed the lifting from his soul of such a gravestone of debt, would have made so little difference to his happiness. He fancied honest Jones, the butcher, had more mere pleasure from the silver snuff-box he had given him, than he had himself from his fortune. Relieved he certainly was, but the relief was not happiness. His debt had been the stone that blocked up the gate of Paradise: the stone was rolled away, but the gate was not therefore open. He seemed for the first time beginning to understand what he had so often said, and in public too, and had thought he understood, that God Himself, and not any or all of His gifts, is the life of a man. He had got rid of the dread imagination that God had given him the money in anger, as He had given the Israelites the quails, nor did he find that the possession formed any barrier between him and God: his danger, now seemed that of forgetting the love of the Giver in his anxiety to spend the gift according to His will.

"You and I ought to be very happy, my love," he said, as now they were walking home.

He had often said so before, and Dorothy had held her peace; but now, with her eyes on the ground, she rejoined, in a low, rather broken voice,

"Why, papa?"

"Because we are lifted above the anxiety that was crushing us into the very mud," he answered, with surprise at her question.

"It never troubled me so much as all that," she answered. "It is a great relief to see you free from it, father; but otherwise, I can not say that it has made much difference to me."

"My dear Dorothy," said the minister, "it is time we should understand each other. Your state of mind has for a long time troubled me; but while debt lay so heavy upon me, I could give my attention to nothing else. Why should there be any thing but perfect confidence between a father and daughter who belong to each other alone in all the world? Tell me what it is that so plainly oppresses you. What prevents you from opening your heart to me? You can not doubt my love."

"Never for one moment, father," she answered, almost eagerly, pressing to her heart the arm on which she leaned. "I know I am safe with you because I am yours, and yet somehow I can not get so close to you as I would. Something comes between us, and prevents me."

"What is it, my child? I will do all and every thing I can to remove it."

"You, dear father! I don't believe ever child had such a father."

"Oh yes, my dear! many have had better fathers, but none better than I hope one day by the grace of God to be to you. I am a poor creature, Dorothy, but I love you as my own soul. You are the blessing of my days, and my thoughts brood over you in the night: it would be in utter content, if I only saw you happy. If your face were acquainted with smiles, my heart would be acquainted with gladness."

For a time neither said any thing more. The silent tears were streaming from Dorothy's eyes. At length she spoke.

"I wonder if I could tell you what it is without hurting you, father!" she said.

"I can hear any thing from you, my child," he answered. "Then I will try. But I do not think I shall ever quite know my father on earth, or be quite able to open my heart to him, until I have found my Father in Heaven."

"Ah, my child! is it so with you? Do you fear you have not yet given yourself to the Saviour? Give yourself now. His arms are ever open to receive you."

"That is hardly the point, father.--Will you let me ask you any question I please?"

"Assuredly, my child." He always spoke, though quite unconsciously, with a little of the _ex-cathedral tone.

"Then tell me, father, are you just as sure of God as you are of me standing here before you?"

She had stopped and turned, and stood looking him full in the face with wide, troubled eyes.

Mr. Drake was silent. Hateful is the professional, contemptible is the love of display, but in his case they floated only as vapors in the air of a genuine soul. He was a true man, and as he could not say _yes_, neither would he hide his _no in a multitude of words--at least to his own daughter: he was not so sure of God as he was of that daughter, with those eyes looking straight into his! Could it be that he never had believed in God at all? The thought went through him with a great pang. It was as if the moon grew dark above him, and the earth withered under his feet. He stood before his child like one whose hypocrisy had been proclaimed from the housetop.

"Are you vexed with me, father?" said Dorothy sadly.

"No, my child," answered the minister, in a voice of unnatural composure. "But you stand before me there like, the very thought started out of my soul, alive and visible, to question its own origin."

"Ah, father!" cried Dorothy, "let us question our origin."

The minister never even heard the words.

"That very doubt, embodied there in my child, has, I now know, been haunting me, dogging me behind, ever since I began to teach others," he said, as if talking in his sleep. "Now it looks me in the face. Am I myself to be a castaway?--Dorothy, I am _not sure of God--not as I am sure of you, my darling."

He stood silent. His ear expected a low-voiced, sorrowful reply. He started at the tone of gladness in which Dorothy cried--

"Then, father, there is henceforth no cloud between us, for we are in the same cloud together! It does not divide us, it only brings us closer to each other. Help me, father: I am trying hard to find God. At the same time, I confess I would rather not find Him, than find Him such as I have sometimes heard you represent Him."

"It may well be," returned her father--the _ex-cathedral_, the professional tone had vanished utterly for the time, and he spoke with the voice of an humble, true man--"it may well be that I have done Him wrong; for since now at my age I am compelled to allow that I am not sure of Him, what more likely than that I may have been cherishing wrong ideas concerning Him, and so not looking in the right direction for finding Him?"

"Where did you get your notions of God, father--those, I mean, that you took with you to the pulpit?"

A year ago even, if he had been asked the same question, he would at once have answered, "From the Word of God;" but now he hesitated, and minutes passed before he began a reply. For he saw now that it was not from the Bible _he had gathered them, whence soever they had come at first. He pondered and searched--and found that the real answer eluded him, hiding itself in a time beyond his earliest memory. It seemed plain, therefore, that the source whence first he began to draw those notions, right or wrong, must be the talk and behavior of the house in which he was born, the words and carriage of his father and mother and their friends. Next source to that came the sermons he heard on Sundays, and the books given him to read. The Bible was one of those books, but from the first he read it through the notions with which his mind was already vaguely filled, and with the comments of his superiors around him. Then followed the books recommended at college, this author and that, and the lectures he heard there upon the attributes of God and the plan of salvation. The spirit of commerce in the midst of which he had been bred, did not occur to him as one of the sources.

But he had perceived enough. He opened his mouth and bravely answered her question as well as he could, not giving the Bible as the source from which he had taken any one of the notions of God he had been in the habit of presenting.

"But mind," he added, "I do not allow that therefore my ideas must be incorrect. If they be second-hand, they may yet be true. I do admit that where they have continued only second-hand, they can have been of little value to me."

"What you allow, then, father," said Dorothy, "is that you have yourself taken none of your ideas direct from the fountain-head?"

"I am afraid I must confess it, my child--with this modification, that I have thought many of them over a good deal, and altered some of them not a little to make them fit the molds of truth in my mind."

"I am so glad, father!" said Dorothy. "I was positively certain, from what I knew of you--which is more than any one else in this world, I do believe--that some of the things you said concerning God never could have risen in your own mind."

"They might be in the Bible for all that," said the minister, very anxious to be and speak the right thing. "A man's heart is not to be trusted for correct notions of God."

"Nor yet for correct interpretation of the Bible, I should think," said Dorothy.

"True, my child," answered her father with a sigh, "--except as it be already a Godlike heart. The Lord says a bramble-bush can not bring forth grapes."

"The notions you gathered of God from other people, must have come out of their hearts, father?"

"Out of somebody's heart?"

"Just so," answered Dorothy.

"Go on, my child," said her father. "Let me understand clearly your drift."

"I have heard Mr. Wingfold say," returned Dorothy, "that however men may have been driven to form their ideas of God before Christ came, no man can, with thorough honesty, take the name of a Christian, whose ideas of the Father of men are gathered from any other field than the life, thought, words, deeds, of the only Son of that Father. He says it is not from the Bible as a book that we are to draw our ideas of God, but from the living Man into whose presence that book brings us, Who is alive now, and gives His spirit that they who read about Him may understand what kind of being He is, and why He did as He did, and know Him, in some possible measure, as He knows Himself.--I can only repeat the lesson like a child."

"I suspect," returned the minister, "that I have been greatly astray. But after this, we will seek our Father together, in our Brother, Jesus Christ."

It was the initiation of a daily lesson together in the New Testament, which, while it drew their hearts closer to each other, drew them, with growing delight, nearer and nearer to the ideal of humanity, Jesus Christ, in whom shines the glory of its Father.

A man may look another in the face for a hundred years and not know him. Men _have looked Jesus Christ in the face, and not known either Him or his Father. It was needful that He should appear, to begin the knowing of Him, but speedily was His visible presence taken away, that it might not become, as assuredly it would have become, a veil to hide from men the Father of their spirits. Do you long for the assurance of some sensible sign? Do you ask why no intellectual proof is to be had? I tell you that such would but delay, perhaps altogether impair for you, that better, that best, that only vision, into which at last your world must blossom--such a contact, namely, with the heart of God Himself, such a perception of His being, and His absolute oneness with you, the child of His thought, the individuality softly parted from His spirit, yet living still and only by His presence and love, as, by its own radiance, will sweep doubt away forever. Being then in the light and knowing it, the lack of intellectual proof concerning that which is too high for it, will trouble you no more than would your inability to silence a metaphysician who declared that you had no real existence. It is for the sake of such vision as God would give that you are denied such vision as you would have. The Father of our spirits is not content that we should know Him as we now know each other. There is a better, closer, nearer than any human way of knowing, and to that He is guiding us across all the swamps of our unteachableness, the seas of our faithlessness, the desert of our ignorance. It is so very hard that we should have to wait for that which we can not yet receive? Shall we complain of the shadows cast upon our souls by the hand and the napkin polishing their mirrors to the receiving of the more excellent glory! Have patience, children of the Father. Pray always and do not faint. The mists and the storms and the cold will pass--the sun and the sky are for evermore. There were no volcanoes and no typhoons but for the warm heart of the earth, the soft garment of the air, and the lordly sun over all. The most loving of you can not imagine how one day the love of the Father will make you love even your own.

Much trustful talk passed between father and daughter as they walked home: they were now nearer to each other than ever in their lives before.

"You don't mind my coming out here alone, papa?" said Dorothy, as, after a little chat with the gate-keeper, they left the park. "I have of late found it so good to be alone! I think I am beginning to learn to think."

"Do in every thing just as you please, my child," said her father. "I can have no objection to what you see good. Only don't be so late as to make me anxious."

"I like coming early," said Dorothy. "These lovely mornings make me feel as if the struggles of life were over, and only a quiet old age were left."

The father looked anxiously at his daughter. Was she going to leave him? It smote him to the heart that he had done so little to make her life a blessed one. How hard no small portion of it had been! How worn and pale she looked! Why did she not show fresh and bright like other young women--Mrs. Faber for instance? He had not guided her steps into the way of peace! At all events he had not led her home to the house of wisdom and rest! Too good reason why--he had not himself yet found that home! Henceforth, for her sake as well as his own, he would besiege the heavenly grace with prayer.

The opening of his heart in confessional response to his daughter, proved one of those fresh starts in the spiritual life, of which a man needs so many as he climbs to the heavenly gates.

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