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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPaul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 44. The Corner Of The Butcher's Shop
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Paul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 44. The Corner Of The Butcher's Shop Post by :dabell Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1858

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Paul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 44. The Corner Of The Butcher's Shop


All that same Sunday morning, the minister and Dorothy had of course plenty of work to their hand, for their more immediate neighbors were all of the poor. Their own house, although situated on the very bank of the river, was in no worse plight than most of the houses in the town, for it stood upon an artificial elevation; and before long, while it had its lower parts full of water like the rest, its upper rooms were filled with people from the lanes around. But Mr. Drake's heart was in the Pottery, for he was anxious as to the sufficiency of his measures. Many of the neighbors, driven from their homes, had betaken themselves to his inclosure, and when he went, he found the salmon-fishers still carrying families thither. He set out at once to get what bread he could from the baker's, a quantity of meat from the butcher, cheese, coffee, and tins of biscuits and preserved meat from the grocers: all within his bounds were either his own people or his guests, and he must do what he could to feed them. For the first time he felt rich, and heartily glad and grateful that he was. He could please God, his neighbor, and himself all at once, getting no end of good out of the slave of which the unrighteous make a god.

He took Dorothy with him, for he would have felt helpless on such an expedition without her judgment; and, as Lisbeth's hands were more than full, they agreed it was better to take Amanda. Dorothy was far from comfortable at having to leave Juliet alone all day, but the possibility of her being compelled to omit her customary visit had been contemplated between them, and she could not fail to understand it on this the first occasion. Anyhow, better could not be, for the duty at home was far the more pressing. That day she showed an energy which astonished even her father. Nor did she fail of her reward. She received insights into humanity which grew to real knowledge. I was going to say that, next to an insight into the heart of God, an insight into the heart of a human being is the most precious of things; but when I think of it--what is the latter but the former? I will say this at least, that no one reads the human heart well, to whom the reading reveals nothing of the heart of the Father. The wire-gauze of sobering trouble over the flaming flower of humanity, enabled Dorothy to see right down into its fire-heart, and distinguish there the loveliest hues and shades. Where the struggle for own life is in abeyance, and the struggle for other life active, there the heart that God thought out and means to perfect, the pure love-heart of His humans, reveals itself truly, and is gracious to behold. For then the will of the individual sides divinely with his divine impulse, and his heart is unified in good. When the will of the man sides perfectly with the holy impulses in him, then all is well; for then his mind is one with the mind of his Maker; God and man are one.

Amanda shrieked with delight when she was carried to the boat, and went on shrieking as she floated over flower-beds and box-borders, caught now and then in bushes and overhanging branches. But the great fierce current, ridging the middle of the brown lake as it followed the tide out to the ocean, frightened her a little. The features of the flat country were all but obliterated; trees only and houses and corn-stacks stood out of the water, while in the direction of the sea where were only meadows, all indication of land had vanished; one wide, brown level was everywhere, with a great rushing serpent of water in the middle of it. Amanda clapped her little hands in ecstasy. Never was there such a child for exuberance of joy! her aunt thought. Or, if there were others as glad, where were any who let the light of their gladness so shine before men, invading, conquering them as she did with the rush of her joy! Dorothy held fast to the skirt of her frock, fearing every instant the explosive creature would jump overboard in elemental sympathy. But, poled carefully along by Mr. Drake, they reached in safety a certain old shed, and getting in at the door of the loft where a cow-keeper stored his hay and straw, through that descended into the heart of the Pottery, which its owner was delighted to find--not indeed dry under foot with such a rain falling, but free from lateral invasion.

His satisfaction, however, was of short duration. Dorothy went into one of the nearer dwellings, and he was crossing an open space with Amanda, to get help from a certain cottage in unloading the boat and distributing its cargo, when he caught sight of a bubbling pool in the middle of it. Alas! it was from a drain, whose covering had burst with the pressure from within. He shouted for help. Out hurried men, women and children on all sides. For a few moments he was entirely occupied in giving orders, and let Amanda's hand go: every body knew her, and there seemed no worse mischief within reach for her than dabbling in the pools, to which she was still devoted.

Two or three spades were soon plying busily, to make the breach a little wider, while men ran to bring clay and stones from one of the condemned cottages. Suddenly arose a great cry, and the crowd scattered in all directions. The wall of defense at the corner of the butcher's shop had given away, and a torrent was galloping across the Pottery, straight for the spot where the water was rising from the drain. Amanda, gazing in wonder at the fight of the people about her, stood right in its course, but took no heed of it, or never saw it coming. It caught her, swept her away, and tumbled with her, foaming and roaring, into the deep foundation of which I have spoken. Her father had just missed her, and was looking a little anxiously round, when a shriek of horror and fear burst from the people, and they rushed to the hole. Without a word spoken he knew Amanda was in it. He darted through them, scattering men and women in all directions, but pulling off his coat as he ran.

Though getting old, he was far from feeble, and had been a strong swimmer in his youth. But he plunged heedlessly, and the torrent, still falling some little height, caught him, and carried him almost to the bottom. When he came to the top, he looked in vain for any sign of the child. The crowd stood breathless on the brink. No one had seen her, though all eyes were staring into the tumult. He dived, swam about beneath, groping in the frightful opacity, but still in vain. Then down through the water came a shout, and he shot to the surface--to see only something white vanish. But the recoil of the torrent from below caught her, and just as he was diving again, brought her up almost within arm's-length of him. He darted to her, clasped her, and gained the brink. He could not have got out, though the cavity was now brimful, but ready hands had him in safety in a moment. Fifty arms were stretched to take the child, but not even to Dorothy would he yield her. Ready to fall at every step, he blundered through the water, which now spread over the whole place, and followed by Dorothy in mute agony, was making for the shed behind which lay his boat, when one of the salmon fishers, who had brought his coble in at the gap, crossed them, and took them up. Mr. Drake dropped into the bottom of the boat, with the child pressed to his bosom. He could not speak.

"To Doctor Faber's! For the child's life!" said Dorothy, and the fisher rowed like a madman.

Faber had just come in. He undressed the child with his own hands, rubbed her dry, and did every thing to initiate respiration. For a long time all seemed useless, but he persisted beyond the utmost verge of hope. Mr. Drake and Dorothy stood in mute dismay. Neither was quite a _child of God yet, and in the old man a rebellious spirit murmured: it was hard that he should have evil for good! that his endeavors for his people should be the loss of his child!

Faber was on the point of ceasing his efforts in utter despair, when he thought he felt a slight motion of the diaphragm, and renewed them eagerly. She began to breathe. Suddenly she opened her eyes, looked at him for a moment, then with a smile closed them again. To the watchers heaven itself seemed to open in that smile. But Faber dropped the tiny form, started a pace backward from the bed, and stood staring aghast. The next moment he threw the blankets over the child, turned away, and almost staggered from the room. In his surgery he poured himself out a glass of brandy, swallowed it neat, sat down and held his head in his hands. An instant after, he was by the child's side again, feeling her pulse, and rubbing her limbs under the blankets.

The minister's hands had turned blue, and he had begun to shiver, but a smile of sweetest delight was on his face.

"God bless me!" cried the doctor, "you've got no coat on! and you are drenched! I never saw any thing but the child!"

"He plunged into the horrible hole after her," said Dorothy. "How wicked of me to forget him for any child under the sun! He got her out all by himself, Mr. Faber!--Come home, father dear.--I will come back and see to Amanda as soon as I have got him to bed."

"Yes, Dorothy; let us go," said the minister, and put his hand on her shoulder. His teeth chattered and his hand shook.

The doctor rang the bell violently.

"Neither of you shall leave this house to-night.--Take a hot bath to the spare bedroom, and remove the sheets," he said to the housekeeper, who had answered the summons. "My dear sir," he went on, turning again to the minister, "you must get into the blankets at once. How careless of me! The child's life will be dear at the cost of yours."

"You have brought back the soul of the child to me, Mr. Faber," said the minister, trembling, "and I can never thank you enough."

"There won't be much to thank me for, if you have to go instead.--Miss Drake, while I give your father his bath, you must go with Mrs. Roberts, and put on dry clothes. Then you will be able to nurse him."

As soon as Dorothy, whose garments Juliet had been wearing so long, was dressed in some of hers, she went to her father's room. He was already in bed, but it was long before they could get him warm. Then he grew burning hot, and all night was talking in troubled dreams. Once Dorothy heard him say, as if he had been talking to God face to face: "O my God, if I had but once seen Thee, I do not think I could ever have mistrusted Thee. But I could never be quite sure."

The morning brought lucidity. How many dawns a morning brings! His first words were "How goes it with the child?" Having heard that she had had a good night, and was almost well, he turned over, and fell fast asleep. Then Dorothy, who had been by his bed all night, resumed her own garments, and went to the door.

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