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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 2 - Chapter 26. Sleep
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Thomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 2 - Chapter 26. Sleep Post by :holipsism Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :3529

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Thomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 2 - Chapter 26. Sleep

VOLUME II CHAPTER XXVI. SLEEP

As Wingfold came out of the room, which was near the stair, Helen rose from the top of it, where she had been sitting all the time he had been with her brother. He closed the door gently behind him, and stepped softly along the landing. A human soul in guilt and agony is an awful presence, but there was more than that in the hush of the curate: he felt as if he had left the physician of souls behind him at the bedside; that a human being lay on the rack of the truth, but at his head stood one who watched his throes with the throbs of such a human heart as never beat in any bosom but his own, and the executioners were angels of light. No wonder if with such a feeling in his breast Wingfold walked softly, and his face glistened! He was not aware that the tears stood in his eyes, but Helen saw them.

"You know all!" she faltered.

"I do. Will you let me out by the garden again? I wish to be alone."

She led the way down the stair, and walked with him through the garden. Wingfold did not speak.

"You don't think very badly of my poor brother, do you, Mr. Wingfold?" said Helen, meekly.

"It is a terrible fate," he returned. "I think I never saw a lovelier disposition. I do hope his mind will soon be more composed. I think he knows where alone he can find rest. I am well aware how foolish that of which I speak seems to some minds, Miss Lingard; but when a man is once overwhelmed in his own deeds, when they have turned into spectres to mock at him, when he loathes himself and turns with sickness from past, present, and future, I know but one choice left, and that is between the death your friend Mr. Bascombe preaches, and the life preached by Jesus, the crucified Jew. Into the life I hope your brother will enter."

"I am so glad you don't hate him."

"Hate him! Who but a demon could hate him?"

Helen lifted a grateful look from eyes that swam in tears. The terror of his possible counsel for the moment vanished. He could never tell him to give himself up!

"But, as I told you, I am a poor scholar in these high matters," resumed the curate, "and I want to bring Mr. Polwarth to see him."

"The dwarf!" exclaimed Helen, shuddering at the remembrance of what she had gone through at the cottage.

"Yes. That man's soul is as grand and beautiful and patient as his body is insignificant and distorted and troubled. He is the wisest and best man I have ever known.

"I must ask Leopold," returned Helen, who, the better the man was represented, felt the more jealous and fearful of the advice he might give. Her love and her conscience were not yet at one with each other.

They parted at the door from the garden, and she returned to the sick-room.

She paused, hesitating to enter. All was still as the grave. She turned the handle softly and peeped in: could it be that Wingfold's bearing had communicated to her mind a shadow of the awe with which he had left the place where perhaps a soul was being born again? Leopold did not move. Terror laid hold of her heart. She stepped quickly in, and round the screen to the side of the bed. There, to her glad surprise, he lay fast asleep, with the tears not yet dried upon his face. Her heart swelled with some sense unknown before: was it rudimentary thankfulness to the Father of her spirit?

As she stood gazing with the look of a mother over her sick child, he lifted his eyelids, and smiled a sad smile.

"When did you come into the room?" he said.

"A minute ago," she answered.

"I did not hear you," he returned.

"No, you were asleep."

"Not I! Mr. Wingfold is only just gone."

"I have let him out on the meadow since."

Leopold stared, looked half alarmed, and then said,

"Did God make me sleep, Helen?"

She did not answer. The light of a new hope in his eye, as if the dawn had begun at last to break over the dark mountains, was already reflected from her heart.

"Oh! Helen," he said, "that IS a good fellow, SUCH a good fellow!"

A pang of jealousy, the first she had ever felt, shot to her heart: she had hitherto, since his trouble, been all in all to her Leopold! Had the curate been a man she liked, she would not perhaps have minded it so much.

"You will be able to do without me now," she said sadly. "I never could understand taking to people at first sight!"

"Some people are made so, I suppose, Helen. I know I took to you at first sight! I shall never forget the first time I saw you--when I came to this country a lonely little foreigner,--and you, a great beautiful lady, for such you seemed to me, though you have told me since you were only a great gawky girl--I know that could never have been--you ran to meet me, and took me in your arms, and kissed me. I was as if I had crossed the sea of death and found paradise in your bosom! I am not likely to forget you for Mr. Wingfold, good and kind and strong as he is! Even SHE could not make me forget you, Helen. But neither you nor I can do without Mr. Wingfold any more, I fancy. I wish you liked him better!--but you will in time. You see he's not one to pay young ladies compliments, as I have heard some parsons do; and he may be a little--no, not unpolished, not that--that's not what I mean--but unornamental in his manners! Only, you see,--"

"Only, you see, Poldie," interrupted Helen, with a smile, a rare thing between them, "you know all about him, though you never saw him before."

"That is true," returned Leopold; "but then he came to me with his door open, and let me walk in. It doesn't take long to know a man then. He hasn't got a secret like us, Helen," he added, sadly.

"What did he say to you?"

"Much what he said to you from the pulpit the other day, I should think."

Then she was right! For all his hardness and want of sympathy, the curate had yet had regard to her entreaties, and was not going to put any horrid notions about duty and self-sacrifice into the poor boy's head!

"He's coming again to-morrow," added Leopold, almost gleefully, "and then perhaps he will tell me more, and help me on a bit!"

"Did he tell you he wants to bring a friend with him?"

"No."

"I can't see the good of taking more people into our confidence."

"Why should he not do what he thinks best, Helen? You don't interfere with the doctor--why should you with him? When a man is going to the bottom as fast as he can, and another comes diving after him--it isn't for me to say how he is to take hold of me. No, Helen; when I trust, I trust out and out."

Helen sighed, thinking how ill that had worked with Emmeline.

Ever since George Bascombe had talked about the Polwarths that day they met him in the park, she had felt a sort of physical horror of them, as if they were some kind of unclean creature that ought not to be in existence at all. But when Leopold uttered himself thus, she felt that the current of events had seized her, and that she could only submit to be carried along.

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