Copyright
George MacDonald.

[Works] (Volume 3) online

. (page 23 of 35)
Online LibraryGeorge MacDonald[Works] (Volume 3) → online text (page 23 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


pouting. " You are very troublesome, auntie dear. Mr
Walton, she is so hard to take care of! and she's worse
since you came. I shall have to give her up some day.
Do be generous, Mr Walton, and take my side that is,
auntie's."

" I am afraid, Judy, I must thank your aunt for taking
the part of my duty against my inclination. But this
kindness, at least," I said to Miss Oldcastle, " I can
never hope to return."

It was a stupid speech, but I could not be annoyed
that I had made it.

" All obligations are not burdens to be got rid of, are
they 1 " she replied, with a sweet smile on such a pale
troubled face, that I was more moved for her, deliber-



THK INVALID. 371



ately handing her over to the torture for the truth's sake,
than I care definitely to confess.

Thereupon, Miss Oldcastle led the way clown the
stairs, I followed, and Judy brought up the rear The
affair was not so bad as it might have been, inasmuch
as, meeting the mistress of the house in no penetralia of
the same, I insisted on going out alone, and met Mrs
Oldcastle in the hall only. She held out no hand to
greet me. I bowed, and said I was sorry to find Mr
Stoddart so far from well.

" I fear he is far from well," she returned ; " certainly
in my opinion too ill to receive visitors."

So saying, she bowed and passed on. I turned and
walked out, not ill-pleased, as my readers will believe,
with my visit

From that day I recovered rapidly, and the next Sun-
day had the pleasure of preaching to my flock; Mr
Aikin, the gentleman already mentioned as doing duty
for me, reading prayers. I took for my subject one of
our Lord's miracles of healing, I forget which now, and
tried to show my people that all healing and all kinds of
healing come as certainly and only from His hand as
those instances in which He put forth His bodily hand
and touched the diseased, and told them to be whole.

And as they left the church the organ played, " Com-
fort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God."

I tried hard to prevent my ne\v feelings from so filling
my mind as to make me fail of my duty towards n:y
flock. I said to myself, " Let me be the more gentle,
the more honourable the more tender, toward: these my



372 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

brothers and sisters, forasmuch as they are her brothers
and sisters too." I wanted to do my work the better
that I loved her.

Thus week after week passed, with little that I can
remember worthy of record. I seldom saw Miss Old-
castle, and during this period never alone. True, she
played the organ still, for Mr Stoddart continued too
unwell to resume his ministry of sound, but I never
made any attempt to see her as she came to or went
from the organ-loft I felt that I ought not, or at least
that it was better not, lest an interview should trouble
my mind, and so interfere with my work, which, if my
calling meant anything real, was a consideration of vital
import. But one thing I could not help noting that
she seemed, by some intuition, to know the music I
liked best ; and great help she often gave me by so up-
lifting my heart upon the billows of the organ-harmony,
that my thinking became free and harmonious, and I
spoke, as far as my own feeling was concerned, like one
upheld on the unseen wings of ministering cherubim.
How it might be to those who heard me, or what the
value of the utterance in itself might be, I cannot tell.
I only speak of my own feelings, I say.

Does my reader wonder why I did not yet make any
further attempt to gain favour in the lady's eyes ? He
will see, if he will think for a moment. First of all, I
could not venture until she had seen more of me ; and
how to enjoy more of her society while her mother was
so unfriendly, both from instinctive dislike to me, and
because of the offence I had given her more than once,



THE INVALID. 373



I did not know ; for I feared that to call oftcner might
only occasion measures upon her part to prevent me
from seeing her daughter at all ; and I couKl not tell
how far such measures might expedite the event I most
dreaded, or add to the discomfort to which Miss Old-
castle was already so much exposed. Meantime I
heard nothing of Captain Kvorard ; and the comfort
that flowed from such a negative source was yet of a
very positive character. At the same time will my
reader understand me? I was in some measure deterred
from making further advances by the doubt whether her
favour for Captain Everard might not be greater than
Judy had represented it For I had always shrunk, I
can hardly say with invincible dislike, for I had never
tried to conquer it, from rivalry of every kind : it was,
somehow, contrary to my nature. Besides, Miss Old-
castle was likely to be rich some day apparently had
money of her own even now; and was it a weakness!
was it not a weakness ? I cannot tell I writhed at
the thought of being supposed to marry for money, and
being made the object of such remarks as, " Ah ! you
see ! That's the way with the clergy 1 They talk about
poverty and faith, pretending to despise riches and to
trust in God ; but just put money in their way, ant!
what chance will a poor giri nave beside a rich one !
It's all very well in the pulpit. It's their business to
talk so. But does one of them believe what he says i
or, at least, act upon it ?'' I think I may be a little
excused for the sense of creeping cold that passed over
me at the thought of such remarks as these, accom-



374 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

panied by compressed lips and down-drawn corners of
the mouth, and reiterated nods of the head of knowing-
ness. But I mention this only as a repressing influence,
to which I certainly should not have been such a fool
as to yield, had I seen the way otherwise clear. For a
man by showing how to use money, or rather simply by
using money aright, may do more good than by refusing
to possess it, if it comes to him in an entirely honour-
able way, that is, in such a case as mine, merely as an
accident of his history. But I was glad to feel pretty
sure that if I should be so blessed as to marry Miss
Oldcastle which at the time whereof I now write
seemed far too gorgeous a castle in the clouds ever tc
descend to the earth for me to enter it the/cw of my
own people would be those most likely to understand
my position and feelings, and least likely to impute to
me worldly motives, as paltry as they are vulgar, and
altogether unworthy of a true man.

So the time went on. I called once or twice on Mr
Stoddart, and found him, as I thought, better. But he
'.vould not allow that he was. Dr Duncan said he was
better, and would be better still, if he would only
believe it and exert himself.

He continued in the same strangely irritable humour.




CHAPTER XX.

MOOD AND WILL

INTER came apace. When we look towards
winter from the last borders of autumn, it
seems as if we could not encounter it, ami
as if it never would go over. So does
threatened trouble of any kind seem to us as \ve look
forward upon its miry ways from the last borders of
the pleasant greensward on which we have hitherto been
walking. But not only do both run their course, but
each has its own alleviations, its own pleasures ; and
very marvellously does the healthy mind fit itself to the
new circumstances ; while to those who will bravely
take up their burden and bear it, asking no more
questions than just, "Is this my burden P a thousand
ministrations of nature and life will come with gentle
comforting^. Across a dark vcrdurcless field will blow
a wind through the heart of the winter which will wake
in the patient mind not a memory merely, but a pro-



376 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

phecy of the spring, with a glimmer of crocus, or snow-
drop, or primrose ; and across the waste of tired en-
deavour will a gentle hope, coming he knows not
whence, breathe springlike upon the heart of the man
around whom life looks desolate and dreary. Well do
I remember a friend of mine telling me once he was
then a labourer in the field of literature, who had not
yet begun to earn his penny a day, though he worked
hard telling me how once, when a hope that had kept
him active for months was suddenly quenched a book
refused on which he had spent a passion of labour
the weight of money that must be paid and could not
be had, pressing him down like the coffin-lid that had
lately covered the only friend to whom he could have
applied confidently for aid telling me, I say, how he
stood at the corner of a London street, with the rain
dripping black from the brim of his hat, the dreariest of
atmospheres about him in the closing afternoon of the
City, when the rich men were going home, and the
poor men who worked for them were longing to follow ;
and how across this waste came energy and hope into
his bosom, swelling thenceforth with courage to fight,
and yield no ear to suggested failure. And the story
would not be complete though it is for the fact of the
arrival of unexpected and apparently unfounded hope
that I tell it if I did not add, that, in the morning,
his wife gave him a letter which their common trouble
of yesterday had made her forget, and which had lain
with its black border all night in the darkness un-
opened, waiting to tell him how the vanished friend had



MOOD AND WILL. 377



not forgotten him on her death-bed, but had left him
enough to take him out of all those difficulties, and give
him strength and time to do far better work than the
book which had failed of birth. Some of my readers
may doubt whether I am more than " a wandering
voice," but whatever I am, or may be thought to be,
my friend's story is true.

And all this has come out of the winter that I, in
the retrospect of my history, am looking fonvard to.
It came, with its fogs, and dripping boughs, and sodden
paths, and rotting leaves, and rains, and skies of weary
gray ; but also with its fierce red suns, shining aslant
upon sheets of manna-like hoarfrost, and delicate ire-
fihns over prisoned waters, and those white falling
chaoses of perfect forms called snow-storms those
confusions confounded of infinite symmetries.

And when the hard frost came, it brought a friend to
my door. It was Mr Stoddart.

He entered my room with something of the counten-
ance Naaman must have borne, after his ilesh had come
again like unto the flesh of a little child. He did not
look ashamed, but his pale face looked humble and dis-
tressed. Its somewhat self-satisfied placidity had van-
ished, and instead of the diffused geniality whirh was iis
usual expression, it now showed traces of feeling as well
as plain signs of suffering. I gave him as warm a wel-
come as I could, and having seated him comfortably by
the fire, and found that he would take no refreshment,
began to chat about the clay's news, for I had ju.st !>e<:u
reading the newspaper. Uut Ive showed no interest be-



3?S ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

yond what the merest politeness required. 1 would try
something else.

" The cold weather, which makes so many invalids
creep into bed, seems to have brought you out into the
air, Mr Stoddart," I said.

" It has revived me, certainly."

" Indeed, one must believe that winter and cold are
as beneficent, though not so genial, as summer and its
warmth. Winter kills many a disease and many a nox-
ious influence. And what is it to have the fresh green
leaves of spring instead of the everlasting brown of some
countries which have no winter ! "

I talked thus, hoping to rouse him to conversation,
and I was successful.

" I feel just as if I were coming out of a winter.
Don't you think illness is a kind of human winter 1 ?"

" Certainly more or less stormy. With some a win-
ter of snow and hail and piercing winds ; with others of
black frosts and creeping fogs, with now and then a
glimmer of the sun."

" The last is more like mine. I feel as if I had been
in a. wet hole in the earth."

" And many a man," I went on, " the foliage of whose
character had been turning brown and seared and dry,
rattling rather than rustling in the faint hot wind of even
fortunes, has come out of the winter of a weary illness
with the fresh delicate buds of a new life bursting from
the sun-dried bark."

" I wish it would be so with me. I know you mean
me. But I don't feel my green leaves coming."



MOOD AND WILL. 379



" Facts are not always indicated by feelings."

"Indeed, I hope not; nor yet feelings indicated by
facts."

" I do not quite understand you."

" Well, Mr Walton, I will explain myself. I have
come to tell you how sorry and ashamed I am that I
behaved so badly to you every time you came to see
me."

" Oh, nonsense !" I said. " It was your illness, not
you."

" At least, my dear sir, the facts of my behaviour did
not really represent my feelings towards you."

" I know that as well as you do. Don't say another
word about it. You had the best excuse for being cross;
I should have had none for being offended."

" It was only the outside of me."

" Yes, yes ; I acknowledge it heartily."

" But that does not settle the matter between me and
myself, Mr Walton ; although, by your goodness, it
settles it between me and you. It is humiliating to
think that illness should so completely ' overcrow ' me.
that I am no more myself lose my hold, in fact, ot
what I call me so that I am almost driven to doubt
my personal identity."

" You are fond of theories, Mr StoJdart perhaps a
little too much so."

" Perhaps."

"Will you listen to one of mine?"

" With pleasure."

" It seems to me sometimes I know it is a partial

2 u



3&> ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

representation as if life were a conflict between the
inner force of the spirit, which lies in its faith in the
unseen and the outer force of the world, which lies in
the pressure of everything it has to show us. The mate-
rial, operating upon our senses, is always asserting its
existence ; and if our inner life is not equally vigorous,
we shall be moved, urged, what is called actuated, from
without, whereas all our activity ought to be from within.
But sickness not only overwhelms the mind, but, vitiat-
ing all the channels of the senses, causes them to repre-
sent things as they are not, of which misrepresentations
the presence, persistency, and iteration seduce the man
to act from false suggestions instead of from what he
knows and believes."

" Well, I understand all that. But what use am I to
make of your theory ] "

" I am delighted, Mr Stoddart, to hear you put the
question. That is always the point. The inward holy
garrison, that of faith, which holds by the truth, by
sacred facts, and not by appearances, must be strength-
ened and nourished and upheld, and so enabled to
resist the onset of the powers without. A friend's re-
monstrance may appear an unkindness a friend's jest
an unfeelingness a friend's visit an intrusion ; nay, to
come to higher things, during a mere headache it will
appear as if there was no truth in the world, no reality
but that of pain anywhere, and nothing to be desired
but deliverance from it. But all such impressions caused
Irom without for, remember, the body and its inner-
most experiences are only outside of the man have to be



MOOD AND WILL. 38!

met by the inner confidence of the spirit, resting in God,
and resisting every impulse to act according to that
which appears to it instead of that which // believes.
Hence, Faith is thus allegorically represented: but I
had better give you Spenser's description of her Here
is the ' Fairy Queen ' :

' She was arrayed all in lily white,
And in her right hand bore a cup of gold,
\Yith wine and water filled up to the height,
In which a serpent did himself enfold,
That horror made to all that did behold ;
13ut she no whit did change her constant mood.'

This serpent stands for the dire perplexity of things
about us, at which yet Faith will not blench, acting
according to what she believes, and not what shows
itself to her by impression and appearance."

' I admit all that you say," returned Mr Stoddart.
" r>ut still the practical conclusion which I understand
to be, that the inward garrison must be fortified is
considerably incomplete unless we buttress it with the
final H(/i(.'. How is it to be fortified ? For,

' I have as much of this in art as you,
But yet my nature could not bear it so.'

(You see I read Shakespeare as well as you, Mr Walton.)
I daresay, from a certain inclination to take the opposite
side, and a certain dislike to the dogmatism of the
clergy I speak generally I may have appeared to you
indifferent, but I assure you that I have laboured much
to withdraw my mind from the influence of money, and
ambition, and pleasure, and to turn it to the contempla-



382 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

tion of spiritual things. Yet on the first attack of a
depressing illness I cease to be a gentleman, I am rude
to ladies who do their best and kindest to serve me, and
I talk to the friend who comes to cheer and comfort me
as if he were an idle vagrant who wanted to sell me a
worthless book with the recommendation of the pretence
that he wrote it himself. Now that I am in my right
mind, I am ashamed of myself, ashamed that it should
be possible for me to behave so, and humiliated yet
besides that I have no ground of assurance that, should
my illness return to-morrow, I should not behave in the
same manner the day after. I want to be always in my
right mind. When I am not, I know I am not, and yet
yield to the appearance of being."

" I understand perfectly what you mean, for I fancy
I know a little more of illness than you do. Shall I
tell you where I think the fault of your self-training
lies?"

" That is just what I want. The things which it
pleased me to contemplate when I was well, gave me
no pleasure when I was ill. Nothing seemed the same."

" If we were always in a right mood, there would be
no room for the exercise of the will We should go by
our mood and inclination only. But that is by the by.
Where you have been wrong is that you have sought
to influence your feelings only by thought and argument
with yourself and not also by contact with your fellows.
Besides the ladies of whom you have spoken, I think
you have hardly a friend in this neighbourhood but
myself. One friend cannot afford you half experience



MOOD AND WILL. 383



enough to teach you the relations of life and of human
needs. At best, under such circumstances, you can only
have right theories : practice for realising them in your-
self is nowhere. It is no more possible for a man in
the present day to retire from his fellows into the cave
of his religion, and thereby leave the world of his own
faults and follies behind, than it was possible for the
eremites of old to get close to God in virtue of declining
the duties which their veiy birth of human father and
mother laid upon them. I do not deny that you and
the eremite may both come nearer to God, in virtue of
whatever is true in your desires and your worship ; ' but
if a man love not his brother whom he hath seen, how
can he love God whom he hath not seen ? ' which
surely means to imply at least that to love our neigh-
bour is a great help towards loving God. How this love
is to come about without intercourse, I do not see. Ana
how without this love we are to bear up from within
against the thousand irritations to which, especially in
sickness, our unavoidable relations with humanity will
expose us, I cannot tell either."

" But," returned Mr Stoddart, " I had had a true
regard for you, and some friendly communication with
you. If human intercourse were what is required in my
case, how should I fail just with respect to the only man
with whom I had held such intercourse?"

" Because the relations in which you stood with me
were those of the individual, not of the race. You like
me, because I am fortunate enough to please you to
be a gentleman, I hope to be a man of some education,



384 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

and capable of understanding, or at least docile enough
to try to understand, what you tell me of your plans and
pursuits. But you do not feel any relation to me on the
ground of my humanity that God made me, and there-
fore I am your brother. It is not because we grow out
of the same stem, but merely because my leaf is a little
like your own that you draw to me. Our Lord took on
Him the nature of man : you will only regard your indi-
vidual attractions. Disturb your liking and your love
vanishes."

" You are severe."

" 1 don't mean really vanishes, but disappears for
the time. Yet you will confess you have to wait till,
somehow, you know not how, it comes back again of
itself, as it were."

" Yes, I confess. To my sorrow, I find it so."

" Let me tell you the truth, Mr Stoddart. You seem
to me to have been hitherto only a dilettante or amateur
in spiritual matters. Do not imagine I mean a hypo-
crite. Very far from it. The word amateur itself sug-
gests a real interest, though it may be of a superficial
nature. But in religion one must be all there. You
seem to me to have taken much interest in unusual
forms of theory, and in mystical speculations, to which
in themselves I make no objection. But to be content
with those, instead of knowing God himself, or to sub-
stitute a general amateur friendship towards the race for
the love of your neighbour, is a mockery which will
always manifest itself to an honest mind like yours in
such failure and disappointment in your own character



MOOD AND WILL. 385



as you arc now lamenting, if not indeed in some mode
far more alarming, because gross and terrible."

" Am I to understand you, then, that intercourse with
one's neighbours ought to take the place of meditation?"

" By no means : but ought to go side by side with it,
if you would have at once a healthy mind to judge and
the means of either verifying your speculations or dis-
covering their falsehood."

" But where am I to find such friends besides yourself
with whom to hold spiritual communion ? "

" It is the communion of spiritual deeds, deeds of
justice, of mercy, of humility the kind word, the cup
of cold water, the visitation in sickness, the lending of
money not spiritual conference or talk, that I mean :
the latter will come of itself where it is natural. You
would soon find that it is not only to those whose spiri-
tual windows are of the same shape as your own that
you are neighbour : there is one poor man in my con-
gregation who knows more practically, I mean, too
of spirituality of mind than any of us. Perhaps you
could not teach him much, but he could teach you. At
all events, our neighbours are just those round about us.
And the most ignorant man in a little place like Marsh-
mallows, one like you with leisure ought to know and
understand, and have some good influence upon : he is
your brother whom you are bound to care for and elevate
I do not mean socially, but really, in himself it" it be
possible. You ought at least to gut into some simple
human relation with him, as you would with the young-
est and most ignorant of your brothers and sisters born



386 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

of the same father and mother; approaching him, not
with pompous lecturing or fault-finding, still less with
that abomination called condescension, but with the
humble service of the elder to the younger, in whatever
he may be helped by you without injury to him. Never
was there a more injurious mistake than that it is the
business of the clergy only to have the care of souls."

" But that would be endless. It would leave me no
time for myself."

" Would that be no time for yourself spent in leading
a noble, Christian life; in verifying the words of our
Lord by doing them; in building your house on the
rock of action instead of the sands of theory; in widen
ing your own being by entering into the nature, thoughts,
feelings, even fancies of those around you ? In such
intercourse you would find health radiating into your
own bosom; healing sympathies springing up in the
most barren acquaintance ; channels opened for the
in-rush of truth into your own mind ; and opportunities
afforded for the exercise of that self-discipline, the lack
of which led to the failures which you now bemoan.
Soon then would you have cause to wonder how much
some of your speculations had fallen into the background,
simply because the truth, showing itself grandly true,
had so filled and occupied your mind that it left no
room for anxiety about such questions as, while secured
in the interest all reality gives, were yet dwarfed by the



Online LibraryGeorge MacDonald[Works] (Volume 3) → online text (page 23 of 35)