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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 3 - Chapter 28. What Helen Heard More
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Thomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 3 - Chapter 28. What Helen Heard More Post by :donben2002 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :3040

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Thomas Wingfold, Curate - Volume 3 - Chapter 28. What Helen Heard More

VOLUME III CHAPTER XXVIII. WHAT HELEN HEARD MORE

"A word you dropped the other day," said the curate, "set me thinking of the note-worthy fact that belief in God and belief in immortality cease together. But I do not see the logic of it. If we are here without God, why may we not go on there without God? I marvel that I have heard of no one taking up and advocating the view. What a grand discovery it would be for some people--that not only was there no God to interfere with them, and insist on their becoming something worth being, but that they were immortal notwithstanding! that death was only the passage of another birth into a condition of enlarged capacity for such bliss as they enjoyed here, but more exalted in degree, perhaps in kind, and altogether preferable."

"I know one to whom the thought would not have been a new one," said Polwarth. "Have you not come upon a passage in my brother's manuscript involving the very idea?"

"Not yet. I read very slowly and pick up all the crumbs. I wish we had had the book here. I should have so much liked to hear you read from it again."

The gate-keeper rose and went to his cabinet.

"The wish is easily gratified," he said. "I made a copy of it,--partly for security, partly that I might thoroughly enter into my brother's thoughts."

"I wonder almost you lend the original then," said Wingfold.

"I certainly could not lend the copy to any man I could not trust with the original," answered Polwarth. "But I never lent either before."--He was turning over the leaves as he spoke.--"The passage," he went on, "besides for its own worth, is precious to me as showing how, through all his madness, his thoughts haunted the gates of wisdom.--Ah! here it is!

"'About this time I had another strange vision, whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell. I thought, as oftener than once before, that at length I was dying. And it seemed to me that I did die, and awake to the consciousness of a blessed freedom from the coarser and more ponderous outer dress I had hitherto worn, being now clad only in what had been up to this time an inner garment, and was a far more closely fitting one. The first delight of which I was aware was coolness--a coolness that hurt me not--the coolness as of a dewy summer eve, in which a soft friendly wind is blowing; and the coolness was that of perfect well-being, of the health that cometh after fever, when a sound sleep hath divided it away and built a rampart between; the coolness of undoubted truth, and of love that has surmounted passion and is tenfold love.'

"He goes on to give further and fuller account of his sensations,--ventures even on the anticipated futility of an attempt to convey a notion of one of his new senses. I leave all that for your own reading, Mr. Wingfold.

"'But where was I? That I could not tell. I am here was all I could say; but then what more could I ever have said?--Gradually my sight came to me, or the light of the country arose, I could not tell which, and behold, I was in the midst of a paradise, gorgeous yet gracious, to describe which I find no words in the halting tongues of earth, and I know something of them all, most of them well. If I say a purple sea was breaking in light on an emerald shore, the moment the words are written, I see them coarse and crude as a boy's first attempt at landscape; yet are there no better wherewith to tell what first filled my eyes with heavenly delight.

"'The inhabitants were many, but nowhere were they crowded. There was room in abundance, and wild places seemed to be held sacred for solitude.'

"I am only picking up a sentence here and there, as I hasten to the particular point," said Polwarth, looking down the page.

"'But the flowers! and the birds! and above all the beauty of the people! And they dwelt in harmony. Yet on their foreheads lay as it seemed a faint mist, or as it were the first of a cloud of coming disquiet.

"'And I prayed him, Tell me, sir, whither shall I go to find God and say unto him, Lo, here I am! And he answered and said to me, Sir, I but dimly know what thou meanest. Say further. And I stood for an hour, even as one astonied. Then said I, All my long life on the world whence I came, I did look to find God when death should take me. But lo, now--And with that my heart smote me, for in my former life I had oftentimes fallen into unbelief and denied God: was this now my punishment--that I should never find him? And my heart grew cold in my body, and the blood curdled therein. Then the man answered and said, It is true that in generations past, for so I read in our ancient books, men did believe in one above them and in them, who had wrought them to that they were, and was working them to better still; but whether it be that we have now gained that better, and there is nothing higher unto which we may look, therefore no need of the high one, I know not, but truly we have long ceased so to believe, and have learned that, as things are, so they have been, and so they shall be. Then fell as it were a cold stone into the core of my heart, and I questioned him no farther, for I bore death in my heart, even as a woman carrieth her unborn child. No God! I cried, and sped away into a solitude and shrieked aloud, No God! Nay, but ere I believe it, I will search through all creation, and cry aloud as I go. I will search until I find him, and if I find him not,--. With that my soul would have fainted in me, had I not spread forth my wings and rushed aloft to find him.

"'For the more lovely anything I saw, the more gracious in colour or form, or the more marvellous in the law of its working, ever a fresh pang shot to my heart: if that which I had heard should prove true, then was there no Love such as seemed to me to dwell therein, the soul of its beauty, and all the excellence thereof was but a delusion of my own heart, greedy after a phantom perfection. No God! no Love! no loveliness, save a ghastly semblance thereof! and the more ghastly that it was so like loveliness, and yet was not to be loved upon peril of prostitution of spirit. Then in truth was heaven a fable, and hell an all-embracing fact! for my very being knew in itself that if it would dwell in peace, the very atmosphere in which it lived and moved and breathed must be love, living love, a one divine presence, truth to itself, and love to me, and to all them that needed love, down to the poorest that can but need it, and knoweth it not when it cometh. I knew that if love was not all in all, in fact as well as in imagination, my life was but a dreary hollow made in the shape of a life, and therefore for ever hungry and never to be satisfied. And again I spread wings--no longer as it seemed of hope, but wings of despair, yet mighty, and flew. And I learned thereafter that despair is but the hidden side of hope.'

"Here follow pages of his wanderings in quest of God. He tells how and where he inquired and sought, searching into the near and minute as earnestly as into the far and vast, watching at the very pores of being, and sitting in the gates of the mighty halls of assembly--but all in vain. No God was to be found.

"'And it seemed to me,' he says at last, 'that, as I had been the wanderer of earth, so was I now doomed to be the wanderer of heaven. On earth I wandered to find death, and men called me the everlasting Jew; in heaven I wandered to find God, and what name would they give me now?

"'At last my heart sank within me wholly, and I folded my wings, and through years I also sank and sank, and alighted at length upon the place appointed for my habitation--that namely wherein I found myself first after death. And alighting there, I fell down weary and slept.

"'And when I awoke I turned upon my side in the despair of a life that was neither in my own power nor in that of one who was the Father of me, which life therefore was an evil thing and a tyrant unto me. And lo! there by my side I beheld a lily of the field such as grew on the wayside in the old times betwixt Jerusalem and Bethany. Never since my death had I seen such, and my heart awoke within me, and I wept bitter tears that nothing should be true, nothing be that which it had seemed in the times of old. And as I wept I heard a sound as of the falling of many tears, and I looked, and lo a shower as from a watering-pot falling upon the lily! And I looked yet again, and I saw the watering-pot, and the hand that held it; and he whose hand held the pot stood by me and looked at me as he watered the lily. He was a man like the men of the world where such lilies grow, and was poorly dressed, and seemed like a gardener. And I looked up in his face, and lo--the eyes of the Lord Jesus! and my heart swelled until it filled my whole body and my head, and I gave a great cry, and for joy that turned into agony I could not rise, neither could I speak, but I crept on my hands and my knees to his feet, and there I fell down upon my face, and with my hands I lifted one of his feet and did place it upon my head, and then I found voice to cry, O master! and therewith the life departed from me. And when I came to myself the master sat under the tree, and I lay by his side, and he had lifted my head upon his knees. And behold, the world was jubilant around me, for Love was Love and Lord of all. The sea roared, and the fulness thereof was love; and the purple and the gold and the blue and the green came straight from the hidden red heart of the Lord Jesus. And I closed my eyes for very bliss; nor had I yet bethought me of the time when first those eyes looked upon me, for I seemed to have known them since first I began to be. But now when for very bliss I closed my eyes, my sin came back to me, and I remembered. And I rose up, and kneeled down before him, and said, O Lord, I am Ahasuerus the Jew, the man who would not let thee rest thy cross upon the stone before my workshop, but drave thee from it.--Say no more of that, answered my Lord, for truly I have myself rested in thy heart, cross and all, until the thing thou diddest in thy ignorance is better than forgotten, for it is remembered in love. Only see thou also make right excuse for my brethren who, like thee then, know not now what they do. Come and I will bring thee to the woman who died for thee in the burning fire. And I said, O Lord, leave me not, for although I would now in my turn right gladly die for her, yet would I not look upon that woman again if the love of her would make me love thee one hair the less-- thou knowest. And the Lord smiled upon me and said, Fear not, Ahasuerus; my love infolds and is the nest of all love. I fear not; fear thou not either. And I arose and followed him. And every tree and flower, yea every stone and cloud, with the whole earth and sea and air, were full of God, even the living God--so that now I could have died of pure content. And I followed my Lord.'"

The gate-keeper was silent, and so were they all. At length Rachel rose softly, wiping the tears from her eyes, and left the room. But she found no one in the closet. Helen was already hastening across the park, weeping as she went.

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