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- Thomas Wingfold, Curate V2 - 1/32 -
blue Sicilian air. When it thus manifests itself, I find no refuge but the offering of it back to him who thought it worth making. I say to him: 'Lord, it is thine, not mine;--see to it, Lord. Thou and thy eternity are mine, Father of Jesus Christ.'"
He covered his eyes with his hands, and his lips grew white, and trembled. Thought had turned into prayer, and both were silent for a space. Rachel was the first to speak.
"I think I understand, uncle," she said. "I don't mind being God's dwarf. But I would rather be made after his own image; this can't be it. I should like to be made over again."
"And if the hope we are saved by be no mockery, if St. Paul was not the fool of his own radiant imaginings, you will be, my child.--But now let us forget our miserable bodies. Come up to my room, and I will read you a few lines that came to me this morning in the park."
"Won't you wait for Mr. Wingfold, uncle? He will be here yet, I think. It can't be ten o'clock. He always looks in on Saturdays as he goes home from his walk. I should like you to read them to him too. They will do him good, I know."
"I would, my dear, willingly, if I thought he would care for them. But I don't think he would. They are not good enough verses. He has been brought up on Horace, and, I fear, counts the best poetry the neatest."
"I think you must be mistaken there, uncle; I have heard him talk delightfully about poetry."
"You must excuse me if I am shy of reading my poor work to any but yourself, Rachel. My heart was wo much in it, and the subject is so sacred--"
"I am sorry you should think your pearls too good to cast before Mr. Wingfold, uncle," said Rachel, with a touch of disappointed temper.
"Nay, nay, child," returned Polwarth, "that was not a good thing to say. What gives me concern is, that there is so much of the rough dirty shell sticking about them, that to show them would be to wrong the truth in them."
Rachel seldom took long to repent. She came slowly to her uncle, where he stood with the lamp in his hand, looking in his face with a heavenly contrition, and saying nothing. When she reached him, she dropped on her knees, and kissed the hand that hung by his side. Her temper was poor Rachel's one sore-felt trouble.
Polwarth stooped and kissed her on the forehead, raised her, and leading her to the stair, stood aside to let her go first. But when she had been naughty Rachel would never go before her uncle, and she drew back. With a smile of intelligence he yielded and led the way. But ere they had climbed to the top, Rachel heard Mr. Wingfold's step, and went down again to receive him.
Invited to ascend, Wingfold followed Rachel to her uncle's room, and there, whether guided by her or not, the conversation presently took such a turn that at length, of his own motion, Polwarth offered to read his verses. From the drawer of his table he took a scratched and scored halfsheet, and--not in the most melodious of voices, yet in one whose harshness and weakness could not cover a certain refinement of spiritual tenderness--read as follows:
Lord, hear my discontent: All blank I stand, A mirror polished by thy hand; Thy sun's beams flash and flame from me-- I cannot help it: here I stand, there he; To one of them I cannot say-- Go, and on yonder water play. Nor one poor ragged daisy can I fashion-- I do not make the words of this my limping passion. If I should say: Now I will think a thought, Lo! I must wait, unknowing, What thought in me is growing, Until the thing to birth is brought; Nor know I then what next will come From out the gulf of silence dumb. I am the door the thing did find To pass into the general mind; I cannot say I think-- I only stand upon the thought-well's brink; From darkness to the sun the water bubbles up-- I lift it in my cup. Thou only thinkest--I am thought; Me and my thought thou thinkest. Nought Am I but as a fountain spout From which thy water welleth out. Thou art the only One, the All in all. --Yet when my soul on thee doth call And thou dost answer out of everywhere, I in thy allness have my perfect share.
While he read Rachel crept to his knee, knelt down, and laid her head upon it.
If we are but the creatures of a day, yet surely were the shadow-joys of this miserable pair not merely nobler in their essence, but finer to the soul's palate than the shadow-joys of young Hercules Bascombe--Helen and horses and all! Poor Helen I cannot use for comparison, for she had no joy, save indeed the very divine, though at present unblossoming one of sisterly love. Still, and notwithstanding, if the facts of life are those of George Bascombe's endorsing--AND HE CAN PROVE IT--let us by all means learn and accept them, be they the worst possible. Meantime there are truths that ought to be facts, and until he has proved that there is no God, some of us will go feeling after him if haply we may find him, and in him the truths we long to find true. Some of us perhaps think we have seen him from afar, but we only know the better that in the mood wherein such as Bascombe are, they will never find him--which would no doubt be to them a comfort were it not for a laughter. And if he be such as their idea of what we think him, they ARE better without him. If, on the contrary, he be what some of us really think him, their not seeking him will not perhaps prevent him from finding them.
From likeness of nature, community of feeling, constant intercourse, and perfect confidence, Rachel understood her uncle's verses with sufficient ease to enjoy them at once in part, and, for the rest, to go on thinking in the direction in which they would carry her; but Wingfold, in whom honesty of disposition had blossomed at last into honesty of action, after fitting pause, during which no word was spoken, said:--
"Mr. Polwarth, where verse is concerned, I am simply stupid: when read I cannot follow it. I did not understand the half of that poem. I never have been a student of English verse, and indeed that part of my nature which has to do with poetry, has been a good deal neglected. Will you let me take those verses home with me?"
"I cannot do that, for they are not legible; but I will copy them out for you."
"Will you give me them to-morrow? Shall you be at church?"
"That shall be just as you please: would you rather have me there or not?"
"A thousand times rather," answered the curate. "To have one man there who knows what I mean better than I can say it, is to have a double soul and double courage.--But I came to-night mainly to tell you that I have been much puzzled this last week to know how I ought to regard the Bible--I mean as to its inspiration. What am I to say about it?"
"Those are two distinct things. Why think of saying about it, before you have anything to say? For yourself, however, let me ask if you have not already found in the book the highest means of spiritual education and development you have yet met with? If so, may not that suffice for the present? It is the man Christ Jesus we have to know, and the Bible we have to use to that end--not for theory or dogma.--I will tell you a strange dream I had once, not long ago."
Rachel's face brightened. She rose, got a little stool, and setting it down close by the chair on which her uncle was perched, seated herself at his feet, with her eyes on the ground, to listen.
"About two years ago," said Polwarth, "a friend sent me Tauchnitz's edition of the English New Testament, which has the different readings of the three oldest known manuscripts translated at the foot of the page. The edition was prepared chiefly for the sake of showing the results of the collation of the Sinaitic manuscript, the oldest of all, so named because it was found--a few years ago, by Tischendorf--in a monastery on Mount Sinai--nowhere else than there! I received it with such exultation as brought on an attack of asthma, and I could scarce open it for a week, but lay with it under my pillow. When I did come to look at it, my main wonder was to find the differences from the common version so few and small. Still there were some such as gave rise to a feeling far above mere interest--one in particular, the absence of a word that had troubled me, not seeming like a word of our Lord, or consonant with his teaching. I am unaware whether the passage has ever given rise to controversy."
"May I ask what word it was?" interrupted Wingfold, eagerly.
"I will not say," returned Polwarth. "Not having troubled you, you would probably only wonder why it should have troubled me. For my purpose in mentioning the matter, it is enough to say that I had turned with eagerness to the passage wherein it occurs, as given in two of the gospels in our version. Judge my delight in discovering that in the one gospel the whole passage was omitted by the two oldest manuscripts, and in the other just the one word that had troubled me, by the same two. I would not have you suppose me foolish enough to imagine that the oldest manuscript must be the most correct; but you will at once understand the sense of room and air which the discovery gave me notwithstanding, and I mention it
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