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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPaul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 45. Here And There
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Paul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 45. Here And There Post by :dabell Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :702

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Paul Faber, Surgeon - Chapter 45. Here And There

CHAPTER XLV. HERE AND THERE

The rain had ceased, and the flood was greatly diminished. It was possible, she judged, to reach the Old House, and after a hasty breakfast, she set out, leaving her father to Mrs. Roberts's care. The flood left her no choice but go by the high road to Polwarth's gate, and then she had often to wade through mud and water. The moment she saw the gatekeeper, she knew somehow by his face that Juliet was in the lodge. When she entered, she saw that already her new circumstances were working upon her for peace. The spiritual atmosphere, so entirely human, the sense that she was not and would not be alone, the strange talk which they held openly before her, the food they coaxed her to eat, the whole surrounding of thoughts and things as they should be, was operating far more potently than could be measured by her understanding of their effects, or even consciousness of their influences. She still looked down upon the dwarfs, condescended to them, had a vague feeling that she honored them by accepting their ministration--for which, one day, she would requite them handsomely. Not the less had she all the time a feeling that she was in the society of ministering spirits of God, good and safe and true. From the Old House to the cottage was from the Inferno to the Purgatorio, across whose borders faint wafts from Paradise now and then strayed wandering. Without knowing it, she had begun already to love the queer little woman, with the wretched body, the fine head, and gentle, suffering face; while the indescribable awe, into which her aversion to the kobold, with his pigeon-chest, his wheezing breath, his great head, and his big, still face, which to such eyes as the curate's seemed to be looking into both worlds at once, had passed over, bore no unimportant part in that portion of her discipline here commenced. One of the loftiest spirits of the middle earth, it was long before she had quite ceased to regard him as a power of the nether world, partly human, and at once something less and something more. Yet even already she was beginning to feel at home with them! True, the world in which they really lived was above her spiritual vision, as beyond her intellectual comprehension, yet not the less was the air around them the essential air of homeness; for the truths in which their spirits lived and breathed, were the same which lie at the root of every feeling of home-safety in the world, which make the bliss of the child in his mother's bed, the bliss of young beasts in their nests, of birds under their mother's wing. The love which inclosed her was far too great for her--as the heaven of the mother's face is beyond the understanding of the new-born child over whom she bends; but that mother's face is nevertheless the child's joy and peace. She did not yet recognize it as love, saw only the ministration; but it was what she sorely needed: she said the sort of thing suited her, and at once began to fall in with it. What it cost her entertainers, with organization as delicate as uncouth, in the mere matter of bodily labor, she had not an idea--imagined indeed that she gave them no trouble at all, because, having overheard the conversation between them upon her arrival, she did herself a part of the work required for her comfort in her own room. She never saw the poor quarters to which Ruth for her sake had banished herself--never perceived the fact that there was nothing good enough wherewith to repay them except worshipful gratitude, love, admiration, and submission--feelings she could not even have imagined possible in regard to such inferiors.

And now Dorothy had not a little to say to Juliet about her husband. In telling what had taken place, however, she had to hear many more questions than she was able to answer.

"Does he really believe me dead, Dorothy?" was one of them.

"I do not believe there is one person in Glaston who knows what he thinks," answered Dorothy. "I have not heard of his once opening his mouth on the subject. He is just as silent now as he used to be ready to talk."

"My poor Paul!" murmured Juliet, and hid her face and wept.

Indeed not a soul in Glaston or elsewhere knew a single thought he had. Certain mysterious advertisements in the county paper were imagined by some to be his and to refer to his wife. Some, as the body had never been seen, did begin to doubt whether she was dead. Some, on the other hand, hinted that her husband had himself made away with her--for, they argued, what could be easier to a doctor, and why, else, did he make no search for the body? To Dorothy this supposed fact seemed to indicate a belief that she was not dead--perhaps a hope that she would sooner betray herself if he manifested no anxiety to find her. But she said nothing of this to Juliet.

Her news of him was the more acceptable to the famished heart of the wife, that, from his great kindness to them all, and especially from the perseverance which had restored to them their little Amanda, Dorothy's heart had so warmed toward him, that she could not help speaking of him in a tone far more agreeable to Juliet than hitherto she had been able to use. His pale, worn look, and the tokens of trouble throughout his demeanor, all more evident upon nearer approach, had also wrought upon her; and she so described his care, anxiety, and tenderness over Amanda, that Juliet became jealous of the child, as she would have been of any dog she saw him caress. When all was told, and she was weary of asking questions to which there were no answers, she fell back in her chair with a sigh: alas, she was no nearer to him for the hearing of her ears! While she lived she was open to his scorn, and deserved it the more that she had _seemed to die! She must die; for then at last a little love would revive in his heart, ere he died too and followed her nowhither. Only first she must leave him his child to plead for her:--she used sometimes to catch herself praying that the infant might be like her.

"Look at my jacket!" said Dorothy. It was one of Juliet's, and she hoped to make her smile.

"Did Paul see you with my clothes on?" she said angrily.

Dorothy started with the pang of hurt that shot through her. But the compassionate smile on the face of Polwarth, who had just entered, and had heard the last article of the conversation, at once set her right. For not only was he capable of immediate sympathy with emotion, but of revealing at once that he understood its cause. Ruth, who had come into the room behind him, second only to her uncle in the insight of love, followed his look by asking Dorothy if she might go to the Old House, as soon as the weather permitted, to fetch some clothes for Mrs. Faber, who had brought nothing with her but what she wore; whereupon Dorothy, partly for leisure to fight her temper, said she would go herself, and went. But when she returned, she gave the bag to Ruth at the door, and went away without seeing Juliet again. She was getting tired of her selfishness, she said to herself. Dorothy was not herself yet perfect in love--which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Faber too had been up all night--by the bedside of the little Amanda. She scarcely needed such close attendance, for she slept soundly, and was hardly at all feverish. Four or five times in the course of the night, he turned down the bed-clothes to examine her body, as if he feared some injury not hitherto apparent. Of such there was no sign.

In his youth he had occupied himself much with comparative anatomy and physiology. His predilection for these studies had greatly sharpened his observation, and he noted many things that escaped the eyes of better than ordinary observers. Amongst other kinds of things to which he kept his eyes open, he was very quick at noting instances of the strange persistency with which Nature perpetuates minute peculiarities, carrying them on from generation to generation. Occupied with Amanda, a certain imperfection in one of the curves of the outer ear attracted his attention. It is as rare to see a perfect ear as to see a perfect form, and the varieties of unfinished curves are many; but this imperfection was very peculiar. At the same time it was so slight, that not even the eye of a lover, none save that of a man of science, alive to minutest indications, would probably have seen it. The sight of it startled Faber not a little; it was the second instance of the peculiarity that had come to his knowledge. It gave him a new idea to go upon, and when the child suddenly opened her eyes, he saw another face looking at him out of hers. The idea then haunted him; and whether it was that it assimilated facts to itself, or that the signs were present, further search afforded what was to him confirmation of the initiatory suspicion.

Notwithstanding the state of feebleness in which he found Mr. Drake the next morning, he pressed him with question upon question, amounting to a thorough cross-examination concerning Amanda's history, undeterred by the fact that, whether itself merely bored, or its nature annoyed him, his patient plainly disrelished his catechising. It was a subject which, as his love to the child increased, had grown less and less agreeable to Mr. Drake: she was to him so entirely his own that he had not the least desire to find out any thing about her, to learn a single fact or hear a single conjecture to remind him that she was not in every sense as well as the best, his own daughter. He was therefore not a little annoyed at the persistency of the doctor's questioning, but, being a courteous man, and under endless obligation to him for the very child's sake as well as his own, he combated disinclination, and with success, acquainting the doctor with every point he knew concerning Amanda. Then first the doctor grew capable of giving his attention to the minister himself; whose son if he had been, he could hardly have shown him greater devotion. A whole week passed before he would allow him to go home. Dorothy waited upon him, and Amanda ran about the house. The doctor and she had been friends from the first, and now, when he was at home, there was never any doubt where Amanda was to be found.

The same day on which the Drakes left him, Faber started by the night-train for London, and was absent three days.

Amanda was now perfectly well, but Mr. Drake continued poorly. Dorothy was anxious to get him away from the river-side, and proposed putting the workmen into the Old House at once. To this he readily consented, but would not listen to her suggestion that in the meantime he should go to some watering-place. He would be quite well in a day or two, and there was no rest for him, he said, until the work so sadly bungled was properly done. He did not believe his plans were defective, and could not help doubting whether they had been faithfully carried out. But the builder, a man of honest repute, protested also that he could not account for the yielding of the wall, except he had had the mishap to build over some deep drain, or old well, which was not likely, so close to the river. He offered to put it up again at his own expense, when perhaps they might discover the cause of the catastrophe.

Sundry opinions and more than one rumor were current among the neighbors. At last they were mostly divided into two parties, the one professing the conviction that the butcher, who was known to have some grudge at the minister, had, under the testudo-shelter of his slaughter-house, undermined the wall; the other indignantly asserting that the absurdity had no foundation except in the evil thoughts of churchmen toward dissenters, being in fact a wicked slander. When the suggestion reached the minister's ears, he, knowing the butcher, and believing the builder, was inclined to institute investigations; but as such a course was not likely to lead the butcher to repentance, he resolved instead to consult with him how his premises might be included in the defense. The butcher chuckled with conscious success, and for some months always chuckled when sharpening his knife; but by and by the coals of fire began to scorch, and went on scorching--the more that Mr. Drake very soon became his landlord, and voluntarily gave him several advantages. But he gave strict orders that there should be no dealings with him. It was one thing, he said, to be good to the sinner, and another to pass by his fault without confession, treating it like a mere personal affair which might be forgotten. Before the butcher died, there was not a man who knew him who did not believe he had undermined the wall. He left a will assigning all his property to trustees, for the building of a new chapel, but when his affairs came to be looked into, there was hardly enough to pay his debts.

The minister was now subject to a sort of ague, to which he paid far too little heed. When Dorothy was not immediately looking after him, he would slip out in any weather to see how things were going on in the Pottery. It was no wonder, therefore, that his health did not improve. But he could not be induced to regard his condition as at all serious.

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