Thomas Wingfold, Curate - vol.2

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As Wingfold walked back to his lodgings, he found a new element mingling with the varied matter of his previous inquiry. Human suffering laid hold upon him--neither as his own nor as that of humanity, but as that of men and women--known or unknown, it mattered nothing: there were hearts in the world from whose agony broke terrible cries, hearts of which sad faces like that of Miss Lingard were the exponents. Such hearts might be groaning and writhing in any of the houses he passed, and, even if he knew the hearts, and what the vampire that sucked their blood, he could do nothing for their relief.

Little indeed could he have imagined the life of such a comfort-guarded lady as Miss Lingard, exposed to the intrusion of any terror-waking monster, from the old ocean of chaos, into the quiet flow of its meadow-banked river! And what multitudes must there not be in the world--what multitudes in our island--how many even in Glaston, whose hearts, lacerated by no remorse, overwhelmed by no crushing sense of guilt, yet knew their own bitterness, and had no friend radiant enough to make a sunshine in their shady places! He fell into mournful mood over the troubles of his race. Always a kind-hearted fellow, he had not been used to think about such things; he had had troubles of his own, and had got through at least some of them; people must have troubles, else would they grow unendurable for pride and insolence. But now that he had begun to hope he saw a glimmer somewhere afar at the end of the darksome cave in which he had all at once discovered that he was buried alive, he began also to feel how wretched those must be who were groping on without even a hope in their dark eyes.

If he had never committed any crime, he had yet done wrong enough to understand the misery of shame and dishonour, and should he not find a loving human heart the heart of the world, would rejoice--with what rejoicing might then be possible--to accept George Bascombe's theory, and drop into the jaws of darkness and cease. How much more miserable then must those be who had committed some terrible crime, or dearly loved one who had! What relief, what hope, what lightening for them! What a breeding nest of vermiculate cares and pains was this human heart of ours! Oh, surely it needed some refuge! If no saviour had yet come, the tortured world of human hearts cried aloud for one with unutterable groaning! What would Bascombe do if he had committed a murder? Or what could he do for one who had? If fable it were, it was at least a need--invented one--that of a Saviour to whom anyone might go, at any moment, without a journey, without letters or commendations or credentials! And yet no: if it had been invented, it could hardly be by any one in the need, for such even now could hardly be brought to believe it. Ill bested were the world indeed if there were no one beyond whose pardon crime could not go! Ah! but where was the good of pardon if still the conscious crime kept stinging? and who would wish one he loved to grow callous to the crime he had committed? Could one rejoice that his guilty friend had learned to laugh again, able at length to banish the memory of the foul thing? Would reviving self-content render him pleasant to the eyes, and his company precious in the wisdom that springs from the knowledge of evil? Would not that be the moment when he who had most assiduously sought to comfort him in his remorse, would first be tempted to withdraw his foot from his threshold? But if there was a God--such a God as, according to the Christian story, had sent his own son into the world--had given him to appear among us, clothed in the garb of humanity, the armour that can be pierced, to take all the consequences of being the god of obedience amongst the children of disobedience, engulfing their wrongs in his infinite forbearance, and winning them back, by slow and unpromising and tedious renewal, to the heart of his father, surely such a God would not have created them, knowing that some of them would sin sins from the horror of which in themselves all his devotion could not redeem them!--And as he thought thus, the words arose in his mind--"COME UNTO ME ALL YE

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