Paul Faber, Surgeon

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The desolation that seized on Dorothy seemed at first overwhelming. There was no refuge for her. The child's tears, questions, and outbreaks of merriment were but a trouble to her. Even Wingfold and Helen could do little for her. Sorrow was her sole companion, her sole comfort for a time against the dreariness of life. Then came something better. As her father's form receded from her, his spirit drew nigh. I mean no phantom out of Hades--no consciousness of local presence: such things may be--I think sometimes they are; but I would rather know my friend better through his death, than only be aware of his presence about me; that will one day follow--how much the more precious that the absence will have doubled its revelations, its nearness! To Dorothy her father's character, especially as developed in his later struggles after righteousness--the root-righteousness of God, opened itself up day by day. She saw him combating his faults, dejected by his failures, encouraged by his successes; and he grew to her the dearer for his faults, as she perceived more plainly how little he had sided, how hard he had fought with them. The very imperfections he repudiated gathered him honor in the eyes of her love, sowed seeds of perennial tenderness in her heart. She saw how, in those last days, he had been overcoming the world with accelerated victory, and growing more and more of the real father that no man can be until he has attained to the sonship. The marvel is that our children are so tender and so trusting to the slow developing father in us. The truth and faith which the great Father has put in the heart of the child, makes him the nursing father of the fatherhood in his father; and thus in part it is, that the children of men will come at last to know the great Father. The family, with all its powers for the development of society, is a family because it is born and rooted in, and grows out of the very bosom of God. Gabriel told Zacharias that his son John, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord, should turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.

Few griefs can be so paralyzing as, for a time, that of a true daughter upon the departure, which at first she feels as the loss, of a true parent; but through the rifts of such heartbreaks the light of love shines clearer, and where love is, there is eternity: one day He who is the Householder of the universe, will begin to bring out of its treasury all the good old things, as well as the better new ones. How true must be the bliss up to which the intense realities of such sorrows are needful to force the way for the faithless heart and feeble will! Lord, like Thy people of old, we need yet the background of the thunder-cloud against which to behold Thee; but one day the only darkness around Thy dwelling will be the too much of Thy brightness. For Thou art the perfection which every heart sighs toward, no mind can attain unto. If Thou wast One whom created mind could embrace, Thou wouldst be too small for those whom Thou hast made in Thine own image, the infinite creatures that seek their God, a Being to love and know infinitely. For the created to know perfectly would be to be damned forever in the nutshell of the finite. He who is His own cause, alone can understand perfectly and remain infinite, for that which is known and that which knows are in Him the same infinitude.

Faber came to see Dorothy--solemn, sad, kind. He made no attempt at condolence, did not speak a word of comfort; but he talked of the old man, revealing for him a deep respect; and her heart was touched, and turned itself toward him. Some change, she thought, must have passed upon him. Her father had told her nothing of his relation to Amanda. It would have to be done some day, but he shrunk from it. She could not help suspecting there was more between Faber and him than she had at first imagined; but there was in her a healthy contentment with ignorance, and she asked no questions. Neither did Faber make any attempt to find out whether she knew what had passed; even about Amanda and any possible change in her future he was listless. He had never been a man of plans, and had no room for any now under the rubbish of a collapsed life. His days were gloomy and his nights troubled. He dreamed constantly either of Amanda's mother, or of Juliet--sometimes of both together, and of endless perplexity between them. Sometimes he woke weeping. He did not now despise his tears, for they flowed neither from suffering nor self-pity, but from love and sorrow and repentance. A question of the possibility of his wife's being yet alive would occasionally occur to him, but he always cast the thought from him as a folly in which he dared not indulge lest it should grow upon him and unman him altogether. Better she were dead than suffering what his cruelty might have driven her to: he had weakened her self-respect by insult, and then driven her out helpless.

People said he took the loss of his wife coolly; but the fact was that, in every quiet way, he had been doing all man could do to obtain what information concerning her there might possibly be to be had. Naturally he would have his proceedings as little as possible in the public mouth; and to employ the police or the newspapers in such a quest was too horrible. But he had made inquiries in all directions. He had put a question or two to Polwarth, but at that time he knew nothing of her, and did not feel bound to disclose his suspicions. Not knowing to what it might not expose her, he would not betray the refuge of a woman with a woman. Faber learned what every body had learned, and for a time was haunted by the horrible expectation of further news from the lake. Every knock at the door made him start and turn pale. But the body had not floated, and would not now.

We have seen that, in the light thrown upon her fault from the revived memory of his own, a reaction had set in: the tide of it grew fiercer as it ran. He had deposed her idol--the God who she believed could pardon, and the bare belief in whom certainly could comfort her; he had taken the place with her of that imaginary, yet, for some, necessary being; but when, in the agony of repentant shame, she looked to him for the pardon he alone could give her, he had turned from her with loathing, contempt, and insult! He was the one in the whole-earth, who, by saying to her Let it be forgotten, could have lifted her into life and hope! She had trusted in him, and he, an idol indeed, had crumbled in the clinging arms of her faith! Had she not confessed to him what else he would never have known, humbling herself in a very ecstasy of repentance? Was it not an honor to any husband to have been so trusted by his wife? And had he not from very scorn refused to strike her! Was she not a woman still? a being before whom a man, when he can no longer worship, must weep? Could any fault, ten times worse than she had committed, make her that she was no woman? that he, merely as a man, owed her nothing? Her fault was grievous; it stung him to the soul: what then was it not to her? Not now for his own shame merely, or the most, did he lament it, but for the pity of it, that the lovely creature should not be clean, had not deserved his adoration; that she was not the ideal woman; that a glory had vanished from the earth; that she he had loved was not in herself worthy. What then must be her sadness! And this was his--the man's--response to her agony, this his balm for her woe, his chivalry, his manhood--to dash her from him, and do his potent part to fix forever upon her the stain which he bemoaned! Stained? Why then did he not open his arms wide and take her, poor sad stain and all, to the bosom of a love which, by the very agony of its own grief and its pity over hers, would have burned her clean? What did it matter for him? What was he? What was his honor? Had he had any, what fitter use for honor than to sacrifice it for the redemption of a wife? That would be to honor honor. But he had none. There was not a stone on the face of the earth that would consent to be thrown at her by him!

Ah men! men! gentlemen! was there ever such a poor sneaking scarecrow of an idol as that gaping straw-stuffed inanity you worship, and call honor? It is not Honor; it is but your honor. It is neither gold, nor silver, nor honest copper, but a vile, worthless pinchbeck. It may be, however, for I have not the honor to belong to any of your clubs, that you no longer insult the word by using it at all. It may be you have deposed it, and enthroned another word of less significance to you still. But what the recognized slang of the day may be is nothing--therefore unnecessary to what I have to say--which is, that the man is a wretched ape who will utter a word about a woman's virtue, when in himself, soul and body, there is not a clean spot; when his body nothing but the furnace of the grave, his soul nothing but the eternal fire can purify. For him is many a harlot far too good: she is yet capable of devotion; she would, like her sisters of old, recognize the Holy if she saw Him, while he would pass by his Maker with a rude stare, or the dullness of the brute which he has so assiduously cultivated in him.

By degrees Faber grew thoroughly disgusted with himself, then heartily ashamed. Were it possible for me to give every finest shade and gradation of the change he underwent, there would be still an unrepresented mystery which I had not compassed. But were my analysis correct as fact itself, and my showing of it as exact as words could make it, never a man on whom some such change had not at least begun to pass, would find in it any revelation. He ceased altogether to vaunt his denials, not that now he had discarded them, but simply because he no longer delighted in them. They were not interesting to him any more. He grew yet paler and thinner. He ate little and slept ill--and the waking hours of the night were hours of torture. He was out of health, and he knew it, but that did not comfort him. It was wrong and its misery that had made him ill, not illness that had made him miserable. Was he a weakling, a fool not to let the past be the past? "Things without all remedy should be without regard: what's done is done." But not every strong man who has buried his murdered in his own garden, and set up no stone over them, can forget where they lie. It needs something that is not strength to be capable of that. The dead alone can bury their dead so; and there is a bemoaning that may help to raise the dead. But sometimes such dead come alive unbemoaned. Oblivion is not a tomb strong enough to keep them down. The time may come when a man will find his past but a cenotaph, and its dead all walking and making his present night hideous. And when such dead walk so, it is a poor chance they do not turn out vampires.

When she had buried her dead out of her sight, Dorothy sought solitude and the things unseen more than ever. The Wingfolds were like swallows about her, never folding their wings of ministry, but not haunting her with bodily visitation. She never refused to see them, but they understood: the hour was not yet when their presence would be a comfort to her. The only comfort the heart can take must come--not from, but through itself. Day after day she would go into the park, avoiding the lodge, and there brood on the memories of her father and his late words. And ere long she began to feel nearer to him than she had ever felt while he was with her. For, where the outward sign has been understood, the withdrawing of it will bring the inward fact yet nearer. When our Lord said the spirit of Himself would come to them after He was gone, He but promised the working of one of the laws of His Father's kingdom: it was about to operate in loftiest grade.

Most people find the first of a bereavement more tolerable than what follows. They find in its fever a support. When the wound in the earth is closed, and the wave of life has again rushed over it, when things have returned to their wonted, now desiccated show, then the very Sahara of desolation opens around them, and for a time existence seems almost insupportable. With Dorothy it was different. Alive in herself, she was hungering and thirsting after life, therefore death could not have dominion over her.

To her surprise she found also--she could not tell how the illumination had come--she wondered even how it should ever have been absent--that, since her father's death, many of her difficulties had vanished. Some of them, remembering there had been such, she could hardly recall sufficiently to recognize them. She had been lifted into a region above that wherein moved the questions which had then disturbed her peace. From a point of clear vision, she saw the things themselves so different, that those questions were no longer relevant. The things themselves misconceived, naturally no satisfaction can be got from meditation upon them, or from answers sought to the questions they suggest. If it be objected that she had no better ground for believing than before, I answer that, if a man should be drawing life from the heart of God, it could matter little though he were unable to give a satisfactory account of the mode of its derivation. That the man lives is enough. That another denies the existence of any such life save in the man's self-fooled imagination, is nothing to the man who lives it. His business is not to raise the dead, but to live--not to convince the blind that there is such a faculty as sight, but to make good use of his eyes. He may not have an answer to any one objection raised by the adopted children of Science--their adopted mother raises none--to that which he believes; but there is no more need that should trouble him, than that a child should doubt his bliss at his mother's breast, because he can not give the chemical composition of the milk he draws: that in the thing which is the root of the bliss, is rather beyond chemistry. Is a man not blessed in his honesty, being unable to reason of the first grounds of property? If there be truth, that truth must be itself--must exercise its own blessing nature upon the soul which receives it in loyal understanding--that is, in obedience. A man may accept no end of things as facts which are not facts, and his mistakes will not hurt him. He may be unable to receive many facts as facts, and neither they nor his refusal of them will hurt him. He may not a whit the less be living in and by the truth. He may be quite unable to answer the doubts of another, but if, in the progress of his life, those doubts should present themselves to his own soul, then will he be able to meet them: he is in the region where all true answers are gathered. He may be unable to receive this or that embodiment or form of truth, not having yet grown to its level; but it is no matter so long as when he sees a truth he does it: to see and not do would at once place him in eternal danger. Hence a man of ordinary intellect and little imagination, may yet be so radiant in nobility as, to the true poet-heart, to be right worshipful. There is in the man who does the truth the radiance of life essential, eternal--a glory infinitely beyond any that can belong to the intellect, beyond any that can ever come within its scope to be judged, proven, or denied by it. Through experiences doubtful even to the soul in which they pass, the life may yet be flowing in. To know God is to be in the secret place of all knowledge; and to trust Him changes the atmosphere surrounding mystery and seeming contradiction, from one of pain and fear to one of hope: the unknown may be some lovely truth in store for us, which yet we are not good enough to apprehend. A man may dream all night that he is awake, and when he does wake, be none the less sure that he is awake in that he thought so all the night when he was not; but he will find himself no more able to prove it than he would have been then, only able to talk better about it. The differing consciousnesses of the two conditions can not be produced in evidence, or embodied in forms of the understanding. But my main point is this, that not to be intellectually certain of a truth, does not prevent the heart that loves and obeys that truth from getting its truth-good, from drawing life from its holy factness, present in the love of it.

As yet Dorothy had no plans, except to carry out those of her father, and, mainly for Juliet's sake, to remove to the old house as soon as ever the work there was completed. But the repairs and alterations were of some extent, and took months. Nor was she desirous of shortening Juliet's sojourn with the Polwarths: the longer that lasted with safety, the better for Juliet, and herself too, she thought.

On Christmas eve, the curate gave his wife a little poem. Helen showed it to Dorothy, and Dorothy to Juliet. By this time she had had some genuine teaching--far more than she recognized as such, and the spiritual song was not altogether without influence upon her. Here it is:

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