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upon the mound, and went their way again to learn hymns and read
their Bible - little ministering angels to whom, as to most sailors'
children, death was too common a sight to have in it aught of hideous
or strange.

And this was the end of the good ship Hesperus, and all her gallant
crew.

Verily, however important the mere animal lives of men may be, and
ought to be, at times, in our eyes, they never have been so, to judge
from floods and earthquakes, pestilence and storm, in the eyes of
Him who made and loves us all. It is a strange fact, better for us,
instead of shutting our eyes to it because it interferes with our
modern tenderness of pain, to ask honestly what it means.




CHAPTER V.

THE WAY TO WIN THEM.


So, for a week or more, Tom went on thrivingly enough, and became a
general favourite in the town. Heale had no reason to complain of
boarding him; for he had dinner and supper thrust on him every day by
one and another, who were glad enough to have him for the sake of his
stories, and songs, and endless fun and good-humour. The Lieutenant,
above all, took the new-comer under his especial patronage, and was
paid for his services in some of Tom's incomparable honey-dew. The
old fellow soon found that the Doctor knew more than one old foreign
station of his, and ended by pouring out to him his ancient wrongs,
and the evil doings of the wicked admiral; all of which Tom heard with
deepest sympathy, and surprise that so much naval talent had remained
unappreciated by the unjust upper powers; and the Lieutenant, of
course, reported of him accordingly to Heale.

"A very civil spoken and intelligent youngster, Mr. Heale, d'ye see,
to my mind; and you can't do better than accept his offer; for you'll
find him a great help, especially among the ladies, d'ye see. They
like a good-looking chap, eh, Mrs. Jones?"

On the fourth day, by good fortune, what should come ashore but
Tom's own chest - moneyless, alas! but with many useful matters still
unspoilt by salt water. So, all went well, and indeed somewhat too
well (if Tom would have let it), in the case of Miss Anna Maria Heale,
the Doctor's daughter.

She was just such a girl as her father's daughter was likely to be; a
short, stout, rosy, pretty body of twenty, with loose red lips, thwart
black eyebrows, and right naughty eyes under them; of which Tom took
good heed: for Miss Heale was exceedingly inclined, he saw, to make
use of them in his behoof. Let others who have experience in, and
taste for such matters, declare how she set her cap at the dapper
young surgeon; how she rushed into the shop with sweet _abandon_ ten
times a-day, to find her father; and, not finding him, giggled, and
blushed, and shook her shoulders, and retired, to peep at Tom through
the glass door which led into the parlour; how she discovered that
the muslin curtain of the said door would get out of order every ten
minutes; and at last called Mr. Thurnall to assist her in rearranging
it; how, bolder grown, she came into the shop to help herself to
various matters, inquiring tenderly for Tom's health, and giggling
vulgar sentiments about "absent friends, and hearts left behind;" in
the hope of fishing out whether Tom had a sweetheart or not. How, at
last, she was minded to confide her own health to Tom, and to instal
him as her private physician; yea, and would have made him feel her
pulse on the spot, had he not luckily found some assafoetida, and
therewith so perfumed the shop, that her "nerves" (of which she was
always talking, though she had nerves only in the sense wherein a
sirloin of beef has them) forced her to beat a retreat.

But she returned again to the charge next day, and rushed bravely
through that fearful smell, cleaver in hand, as the carrier set down
at the door a huge box, carriage-paid, all the way from London, and
directed to Thomas Thurnall, Esquire. She would help to open it: and
so she did, while old Heale and his wife stood by curious, - he with a
maudlin wonder and awe (for he regarded Tom already as an altogether
awful and incomprehensible "party"), and Mrs. Heale with a look of
incredulous scorn, as if she expected the box to be a mere sham,
filled probably with shavings. For (from reasons best known to
herself) she had never looked pleasantly on the arrangement which
entrusted to Tom the care of the bottles. She had given way from
motives of worldly prudence, even of necessity; for Heale had been
for the greater part of the week quite incapable of attending to his
business: but black envy and spite were seething in her foolish heart,
and seethed more and more fiercely when she saw that the box did
not contain shavings, but valuables of every sort and kind - drugs,
instruments, a large microscope (which Tom delivered out of Miss
Heale's fat clumsy fingers only by strong warnings that it would go
off and shoot her), books full of prints of unspeakable monsters; and
finally, a little packet, containing not one five-pound note, but
four, and a letter which Tom, after perusing, put into Mr. Heale's
hands, with a look of honest pride.

The Mumpsimus men, it appeared, had "sent round the hat" for him, and
here were the results; and they would send the hat round again every
month, if he wanted it; or, if he would come up, board, lodge, and
wash him gratis. The great Doctor Bellairs, House Physician, and
Carver, the famous operator (names at which Heale bowed his head
and worshipped), sent compliments, condolences, offers of
employment - never was so triumphant a testimonial; and Heale, in his
simplicity, thought himself (as indeed he was) the luckiest of country
doctors; while Mrs. Heale, after swelling and choking for five
minutes, tottered into the back room, and cast herself on the sofa in
violent hysterics.

As she came round again, Tom could not but overhear a little that
passed. And this he overheard among other matters: -

"Yes, Mr. Heale, I see, I see too well, which your natural blindness,
sir, and that fatal easiness of temper, will bring you to a premature
grave within the paupers' precincts; and this young designing infidel,
with his science and his magnifiers, and his callipers, and philosophy
falsely so called, which in our true Protestant youth there was none,
nor needed none, to supplant you in your old age, and take the bread
out of your grey hairs, which he will bring with sorrow to the grave,
and mine likewise, which am like my poor infant here, of only too
sensitive sensibilities! Oh, Anna Maria, my child, my poor lost child!
which I can feel for the tenderness of the inexperienced heart! My
Virgin Eve, which the Serpent has entered into your youthful paradise,
and you will find; alas! too late, that you have warmed an adder into
your bosom!"

"Oh, Ma, how indelicate!" giggled Anna Maria, evidently not
displeased. "If you don't mind he will hear you, and I should never be
able to look him in the face again." And therewith she looked round to
the glass door.

What more passed, Tom did not choose to hear; for he began making all
the bustle he could in the shop, merely saying to himself, -

"That flood of eloquence is symptomatic enough: I'll lay my life the
old dame knows her way to the laudanum bottle."

Tom's next business was to ingratiate himself with the young curate.
He had found out already, cunning fellow, that any extreme intimacy
with Headley would not increase his general popularity; and, as we
have seen already, he bore no great affection to "the cloth" in
general: but the curate was an educated gentleman, and Tom wished for
some more rational conversation than that of the Lieutenant and Heale.
Besides, he was one of those men, with whom the possession of power,
sought at first from self-interest, has become a passion, a species of
sporting, which he follows for its own sake, To whomsoever he met he
must needs apply the moral stethoscope; sound him, lungs, heart, and
liver; put his tissues under the microscope, and try conclusions on
him to the uttermost. They might be useful hereafter; for knowledge
was power: or they might not. What matter? Every fresh specimen of
humanity which he examined was so much gained in general knowledge.
Very true, Thomas Thurnall; provided the method of examination be the
sound and the deep one, which will lead you down in each case to the
real living heart of humanity: but what if your method be altogether a
shallow and a cynical one, savouring much more of Gil Blas than of
St. Paul, grounded not on faith and love for human beings, but on
something very like suspicion and contempt? You will be but too
likely, Doctor, to make the coarsest mistakes, when you fancy yourself
most penetrating; to mistake the mere scurf and disease of the
character for its healthy organic tissue, and to find out at last,
somewhat to your confusion, that there are more things, not only in
heaven, but in the earthiest of the earth, than are dreamt of in your
philosophy. You have already set down Grace Harvey as a hypocrite, and
Willis as a dotard. Will you make up your mind in the same foolishness
of over-wisdom, that Frank Headley is a merely narrow-headed and
hard-hearted pedant, quite unaware that he is living an inner life of
doubts, struggles, prayers, self-reproaches, noble hunger after an
ideal of moral excellence, such as you, friend Tom, never yet dreamed
of, which would be to you as an unintelligible gibber of shadows out
of dreamland, but which is to him the only reality, the life of life,
for which everything is to be risked and suffered? You treat his
opinions (though he never thrusts them on you) about "the Church," and
his duty, and the souls of his parishioners, with civil indifference,
as much ado about nothing; and his rubrical eccentricities as
puerilities. You have already made up your mind to "try and put a
little common sense into him," not because it is any concern of yours
whether he has common sense or not, but because you think that it
will be better for you to have the parish at peace; but has it ever
occurred to you how noble the man is, even in his mistakes? How that
one thought, that the finest thing in the world is to be utterly good,
and to make others good also, puts him three heavens at least above
you, you most unangelic terrier-dog, bemired all day long by grubbing
after vermin! What if his idea of "the Church" be somewhat too narrow
for the year of grace 1854, is it no honour to him that he has such
an idea at all; that there has risen up before him the vision of a
perfect polity, a "Divine and wonderful Order," linking earth to
heaven, and to the very throne of Him, who died for men; witnessing to
each of its citizens what the world tries to make him forget, namely,
that he is the child of God himself; and guiding and strengthening
him, from the cradle to the grave, to do his Father's work? Is it a
shame to him that he has seen that such a polity must exist, that he
believes that it does exist; or that he thinks he finds it in its
highest, if not its perfect form, in the most ancient and august
traditions of his native land? True, he has much to learn, and you
may teach him something of it; but you will find some day, Thomas
Thurnall, that, granting you to be at one pole of the English
character, and Frank Headley at the other, he is as good an Englishman
as you, and can teach you more than you can him.

The two soon began to pass almost every evening together, pleasantly
enough; for the reckless and rattling manner which Tom assumed
with the mob, he laid aside with the curate, and showed himself as
agreeable a companion as man could need; while Tom in his turn found
that Headley was a rational and sweet-tempered man, who, even where
he had made up his mind to differ, could hear an adverse opinion, put
sometimes in a startling shape, without falling into any of those male
hysterics of sacred horror, which are the usual refuge of ignorance
and stupidity, terrified by what it cannot refute. And soon Tom began
to lay aside the reserve which he usually assumed to clergymen, and to
tread on ground which Headley would gladly have avoided. For, to tell
the truth, ever since Tom had heard of Grace's intended dismissal, the
curate's opinions had assumed a practical importance in his eyes; and
he had vowed in secret that, if his cunning failed him not, turned out
of her school she should not be. Whether she had stolen his money or
not, she had saved his life; and nobody should wrong her, if he could
help it. Besides, perhaps she had not his money. The belt might have
slipped off in the struggle; some one else might have taken it off in
carrying him up; he might have mistaken the shame of innocence in her
face for that of guilt. Be it as it might, he had not the heart
to make the matter public, and contented himself with staying at
Aberalva, and watching for every hint of his lost treasure.

By which it befell that he was thinking, the half of every day at
least, about Grace Harvey; and her face was seldom out of his mind's
eye; and the more he looked at it, either in fancy or in fact, the
more did it fascinate him. They met but rarely, and then interchanged
the most simple and modest of salutations: but Tom liked to meet her,
would have gladly stopped to chat with her; however, whether from
modesty or from a guilty conscience, she always hurried on in silence.

And she? Tom's request to her, through Willis, to say nothing about
the matter, she had obeyed, as her mother also had done. That Tom
suspected her was a thought which never crossed her mind; to suspect
any one herself was in her eyes a sin; and if the fancy that this man
or that, among the sailors who had carried Tom up to Heale's, might
have been capable of the baseness, she thrust the thought from her,
and prayed to be forgiven for her uncharitable judgment.

But night and day there weighed on that strange and delicate spirit
the shame of the deed, as heavily, if possible, as if she herself had
been the doer. There was another soul in danger of perdition; another
black spot of sin, making earth hideous to her. The village was
disgraced; not in the public eyes, true: but in the eye of heaven, and
in the eyes of that stranger for whom she was beginning to feel an
interest more intense than she ever had done in any human being
before. Her saintliness (for Grace was a saint in the truest sense of
that word) had long since made her free of that "communion of saints"
which consists not in Pharisaic isolation from "the world," not in the
mutual flatteries and congratulations of a self-conceited clique; but
which bears the sins and carries the sorrows of all around: whose
atmosphere is disappointed hopes and plans for good, and the
indignation which hates the sin because it loves the sinner, and
sacred fear and pity for the self-inflicted miseries of those who
might be (so runs the dream, and will run till it becomes a waking
reality) strong, and free, and safe, by being good and wise. To such
a spirit this bold cunning man had come, stiff-necked and
heaven-defiant, a "brand plucked from the burning:" and yet equally
unconscious of his danger, and thankless for his respite. Given, too,
as it were, into her hands; tossed at her feet out of the very mouth
of the pit, - why but that she might save him? A far duller heart, a
far narrower imagination than Grace's would have done what Grace's
did - concentrate themselves round the image of that man with all the
love of woman. For, ere long, Grace found that she did love that man,
as a woman loves but once in her life; perhaps in all time to come.
She found that her heart throbbed, her cheek flushed, when his name
was mentioned; that she watched, almost unawares to herself, for his
passing; and she was not ashamed at the discovery. It was a sort of
melancholy comfort to her that there was a great gulf fixed between
them. His station, his acquirements, his great connections and friends
in London (for all Tom's matters were the gossip of the town, as,
indeed, he took care that they should be), made it impossible that he
should ever think of her; and therefore she held herself excused
for thinking of him, without any fear of that "self-seeking," and
"inordinate affection," and "unsanctified passions," which her
religious books had taught her to dread. Besides, he was not "a
Christian." That five minutes on the shore had told her that; and even
if her station had been the same as his, she must not be "unequally
yoked with an unbeliever." And thus the very hopelessness of her love
became its food and strength; the feeling which she would have checked
with maidenly modesty, had it been connected even remotely with
marriage, was allowed to take immediate and entire dominion; and she
held herself permitted to keep him next her heart of hearts, because
she could do nothing for him but pray for his conversion.

And pray for him she did, the noble, guileless girl, day and night,
that he might be converted; that he might prosper, and become - perhaps
rich, at least useful; a mighty instrument in some good work. And then
she would build up one beautiful castle in the air after another, out
of her fancies about what such a man, whom she had invested in her own
mind with all the wisdom of Solomon, might do if his "talents were
sanctified." Then she prayed that he might recover his lost gold - when
it was good for him; that he might discover the thief: no, that would
only involve fresh shame and sorrow: that the thief, then, might be
brought to repentance, and confession, and restitution. That was the
solution of the dark problem, and for that she prayed; while her face
grew sadder and sadder day by day.

For a while, over and above the pain which the theft caused her, there
came - how could it be otherwise? - sudden pangs of regret that this
same love was hopeless, at least upon this side of the grave.
Inconsistent they were with the chivalrous unselfishness of her usual
temper; and as such she dashed them from her, and conquered them,
after a while, by a method which many a woman knows too well. It was
but "one cross more;" a natural part of her destiny - the child of
sorrow and heaviness of heart. Pleasure in joy she was never to find
on earth; she would find it, then, in grief. And nursing her own
melancholy, she went on her way, sad, sweet, and steadfast, and
lavished more care and tenderness, and even gaiety, than ever upon her
neighbours' children, because she knew that she should never have a
child of her own.

But there is a third damsel, to whom, whether more or less engaging
than Grace Harvey or Miss Heale, my readers must needs be introduced.
Let Miss Heale herself do it, with eyes full of jealous curiosity.

"There is a foreign letter for Mr. Thurnall, marked Montreal, and sent
on here from Whitbury," said she, one morning at breakfast, and in a
significant tone; for the address was evidently in a woman's hand.

"For me - ah, yes; I see," said Tom, taking it carelessly, and
thrusting it into his pocket.

"Won't you read it at once, Mr. Thurnall? I'm sure you must be anxious
to hear from friends abroad;" with an emphasis on the word friends.

"I have a good many acquaintances all over the world, but no friends
that I am aware of," said Tom, and went on with his breakfast.

"Ah - but some people are more than friends. Are the Montreal ladies
pretty, Mr. Thurnall?"

"Don't know; for I never was there."

Miss Heale was silent, being mystified: and, moreover, not quite sure
whether Montreal was in India or in Australia, and not willing to show
her ignorance.

She watched Tom through the glass door all the morning to see if he
read the letter, and betrayed any emotion at its contents: but Tom
went about his business as usual, and, as far as she saw, never read
it at all.

However, it was read in due time; for, finding himself in a lonely
place that afternoon, Tom pulled it out with an anxious face, and read
a letter written in a hasty ill-formed hand, underscored at every
fifth word, and plentifully bedecked with notes of exclamation.

"What? my dearest friend, and fortune still frowns upon you? Your
father blind and ruined! Ah, that I were there to comfort him for your
sake! And ah, that I were anywhere, doing any drudgery, which might
prevent my being still a burden to my benefactors. Not that they are
unkind; not that they are not angels! I told them at once that you
could send me no more money till you reached England, perhaps not
then; and they answered that God would send it; that He who had sent
me to them would send the means of supporting me; and ever since they
have redoubled their kindness: but it is intolerable, this dependence,
and on you, too, who have a father to support in his darkness. Oh,
how I feel for you! But to tell you the truth, I pay a price for this
dependence. I must needs be staid and sober; I must needs dress
like any Quakeress; I must not read this book nor that; and my
Shelley - taken from me, I suppose, because it spoke too much
'Liberty,' though, of course, the reason given was its infidel
opinions - is replaced by 'Law's Serious Call.' 'Tis all right and
good, I doubt not: but it is very dreary; as dreary as these black
fir-forests, and brown snake fences, and that dreadful, dreadful
Canadian winter which is past, which went to my very heart, day after
day, like a sword of ice. Another such winter, and I shall die, as one
of my own humming-birds would die, did you cage him here, and prevent
him from fleeing home to the sunny South when the first leaves begin
to fall. Dear children of the sun! my heart goes forth to them; and
the whir of their wings is music to me, for it tells me of the South,
the glaring South, with its glorious flowers, and glorious woods, its
luxuriance, life, fierce enjoyments - let fierce sorrows come with
them, if it must be so! Let me take the evil with the good, and live
my rich wild life through bliss and agony, like a true daughter of the
sun, instead of crystallising slowly here into ice, amid countenances
rigid with respectability, sharpened by the lust of gain; without
taste, without emotion, without even sorrow! Let who will be the
stagnant mill-head, crawling in its ugly spade-cut ditch to turn the
mill. Let me be the wild mountain brook, which foams and flashes over
the rocks - what if they tear it? - it leaps them nevertheless, and goes
laughing on its way. Let me go thus, for weal or woe! And if I sleep
awhile, let it be like the brook, beneath the shade of fragrant
magnolias and luxuriant vines, and image, meanwhile, in my bosom
nothing but the beauty around.

"Yes, my friend, I can live no longer this dull chrysalid life, in
comparison with which, at times, even that past dark dream seems
tolerable - for amid its lurid smoke were flashes of brightness. A
slave? Well; I ask myself at times, and what were women meant for
but to be slaves? Free them, and they enslave themselves again, or
languish unsatisfied; for they must love. And what blame to them
if they love a white man, tyrant though he be, rather than a
fellow-slave? If the men of our own race will claim us, let them prove
themselves worthy of us! Let them rise, exterminate their tyrants, or,
failing that, show that they know how to die. Till then, those who are
the masters of their bodies will be the masters of our hearts. If they
crouch before the white like brutes, what wonder if we look up to him
as to a god? Woman must worship, or be wretched. Do I not know it?
Have I not had my dream - too beautiful for earth? Was there not one
whom you knew, to hear whom call me slave would have been rapture; to
whom I would have answered on my knees, Master, I have no will but
yours! But that is past - past. One happiness alone was possible for a
slave, and even that they tore from me; and now I have no thought, no
purpose, save revenge.

"These good people bid me forgive my enemies. Easy enough for
them, who have no enemies to forgive. Forgive? Forgive injustice,
oppression, baseness, cruelty? Forgive the devil, and bid him go in
peace, and work his wicked will? Why have they put into my hands,
these last three years, books worthy of a free nation? - books which
call patriotism divine; which tell me how in every age and clime men
have been called heroes who rose against their conquerors; women
martyrs who stabbed their tyrants, and then died? Hypocrites! Did
their grandfathers meekly turn the other cheek when your English taxed
them somewhat too heavily? Do they not now teach every school-child to
glory in their own revolution, their own declaration of independence,
and to flatter themselves into the conceit that they are the lords of


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Online LibraryCharles KingsleyTwo Years Ago, Volume I → online text (page 10 of 26)