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RICHARD AND ARTHUR.
She went to find him, told him what had happened to the young man, and, feeling her way, proposed that he should go to his grandfather's for a few days. Arthur started. Send him where he and Barbara would be constantly meeting! Must he for ever imagine them walking up and down that field, among the dandelions and daisies! He had discovered, he believed, all that was between them, but was not therewith satisfied: she had found out, he said to himself, that the fellow was an infidel, did not believe in God, or a resurrection--was so low that he did not care to live for ever, and she was trying to convert him. Arthur would rather he remained unconverted than that she should be the means of converting him. Nor indeed would he be much injured by having the growth of such a faith as Arthur's prevented in him: Arthur prided himself in showing due respect to the Deity by allowing that he existed. But the fellow was too clever by half, he said, and would be much too much for her. Any theory wild enough would be attractive to her, who never cared a pin-head what the rest of the world believed! She had indeed a strong tendency to pantheism, for she expected the animals to rise again--a most unpleasant notion! Doubtless it was she that sought his company; a fellow like that could not presume to seek hers! He was only laughing at her all the time! What could an animal like him care about the animals: he had not even a dog to love! He would not have him go to his grandfather's! he would a thousand times rather give up the library! There should be no more bookbinding at Mortgrange! He would send the books to London to him! It would be degrading to allow personal feeling to affect his behaviour to such a fellow; he should have the work all the same, but not at Mortgrange!
So he answered his mother that he was rather tired of him, and thought they had had enough of him; the work seemed likely to be spun out ad infinitum, and this was a good opportunity for getting rid of him. He was sorry, for it was the best way for the books, but he could send them to him in London, and have them done there! The man, he understood, had been making himself disagreeable too, and he did not want to quarrel with him! He was a radical, and thought himself as good as anybody: it was much best to let him go. He had at first liked him, and had perhaps shown it more than was good for the fellow, so that he had come to presume upon it, setting it down to some merit in himself. Happily he had retained the right of putting an end to the engagement when he pleased!
This was far better than lady Ann had expected. Arthur went at once to Richard, and speaking, as he thought, unconcernedly, told him they found it inconvenient to have the library used as a workshop any longer, and must make a change.
Richard was glad to hear it, thinking he meant to give him another room, and said he could work just as well anywhere else: he wanted only a dry room with a fire-place! Arthur told him he had arranged for what would be more agreeable to both parties, namely, that he should do the work at home. It would cost more, but he was prepared for that. He might go as soon as he pleased, and they would arrange by letter how the books should be sent--so many at a time!
Richard spied something more under his dismissal than the affair with Miss Vixen; but he was too proud to ask for an explanation: Mr. Lestrange was in the right of their compact. He felt aggrieved notwithstanding, and was sorry to go away from the library. He would never again have the chance of restoring such a library! He did not once think of it from the point of gain: he could always make his living! It was to him a genuine pleasure to cause any worthy volume look as it ought to look; and to make a whole straggling library of books wasted and worn, put on the complexion, uniform, and discipline of a well-conditioned company of the host of heaven, was at least an honourable task! For what are books, I venture to say, but an army-corps of the lord of hosts, at whose command are troops of all natures, after the various regions of his indwelling! Even the letter is something, for the dry bones of books are every hour coming alive to the reader in whose spirit is blowing the better spirit. Richard himself was one of such, though he did not yet know there was a better spirit. Then again, there were not a few of the books with which individually he was sorry to part. He had also had fine opportunity for study, of which he was making good use, and the loss of it troubled him. He had read some books he would hardly otherwise have been able to read, and had largely extended his acquaintance with titles.
He was sorry too not to see more of Mr. Wingfold. He was a clergyman, it was true, but not the least like any other clergyman he had seen! Richard had indeed known nothing of any other clergyman out of the pulpit; and I fear most clergymen are less human, therefore less divine, in the pulpit than out of it! Many who out of the pulpit appear men, are in it little better than hawkers of old garments, the worse for their new patches. Of the forces in action for the renovation of the world, the sale of such old clothes is one of the least potent. They do, however, serve a little, I think, even as the rags of a Neapolitan for the olives of Italy, as a sort of manure for the young olives of the garden of God.
But his far worst sorrow was leaving Miss Wylder. That was a pain, a keen pain in his heart. For, that a woman is miles above him, as a star is above a marsh-light, is no reason why a man should not love her. Nay, is it not the best of reasons for loving her? The higher in soul, and the lowlier in position he is, the more imperative and unavoidable is it that he should love her; and the absence of any thought in the direction of marriage leaves but the wider room for the love infinite. In a man capable of loving in such fashion, there are no bounds to the possibilities, no limit to the growth of love. Richard thought his soul was full, but a live soul can never be full; it is always growing larger, and is always being filled.
"Like one that hath been stunned," he went about his preparations for departure.
"You will go by the first train in the morning," said Arthur, happening to meet him in the stable-yard, whither Richard had gone to look if Miss Brown was in her usual stall. "I have told Robert to take you and your tools to the station in the spring-cart."
"Thank you, sir," returned Richard; "I shall not require the cart. I leave the house to-night, and shall send for my things to-morrow morning. I have them almost ready now."
"You cannot go to London to-night!"
"I am aware of that, sir."
"Then where are you going? I wish to know."
"That is my business, sir."
"You have no cause to show temper," said Arthur coldly.
"I should not have shown it, sir, had you not presumed to give me orders after dismissing me," answered Richard.
"I have not dismissed you; I mean to employ you still, only in London instead of here," said Arthur.
"That is a matter for fresh arrangement with my father," rejoined Richard, and left him.
Arthur felt a shadow cross him--almost like fear: he had but driven Richard to his grandfather's, and had made an enemy of him! Nor could he feel satisfied with himself; he could not get rid of the thought that what he had done was not quite the thing for a gentleman to do. His trouble was not that he had wronged Richard, but that he had wronged himself, had not acted like his ideal of himself. He did not think of what was right, but of what befitted a gentleman. Such a man is in danger of doing many things unbefitting a gentleman. For the measure of a gentleman is not a man's ideal of himself.
His uneasiness grew as day after day went by, and Barbara did not appear at Mortgrange. He was not aware that Richard saw no more of her than himself. He knew that he was at his grandfather's; he had himself seen him at work at the anvil; but he did not know that the hope in which he lingered there was vain.
Richard waited a week, but no Barbara came to the smithy. He could not endure the thought of going away without seeing her once more. He must once thank her for what she had done for him! He must let her know why he had left Mortgrange.
He would go and say good-bye to the clergyman: from him he might hear something of her!
Wingfold caught sight of him approaching the house, and himself opened the door to him. Taking him to his study, he made him sit down, and offered him a pipe.
"Thank you, sir; I don't smoke," said Richard.
"Then don't learn. You are better without it," answered Wingfold, and put down his own pipe.
"I came," said Richard, "to thank you for your kindness to me, and to ask about Miss Wylder. Not having seen her for a long time, I was afraid she might be ill. I am going away."
There was a tremor in Richard's voice, of which he was not himself aware. Wingfold noted it, pitied the youth because of the fuel he had stored for suffering, and admired him for his straightforwardness.
"I am sorry to say you are not likely to see Miss Wylder," he answered. "Her mother is ill."
"I hardly thought to see her, sir. Is her mother very ill?"
"Yes, very ill," answered Wingfold.
"With anything infectious?"
"No. Her complaint is as little infectious as complaint could be; it is just exhaustion--absolute prostration, mental and nervous. She is too weak to think, and can't even feed herself. I fear her daughter will be worn out waiting on her. She devotes herself to her mother with a spirit and energy I never but once knew equalled. She never seems tired, never out of spirits. I heard a lady say she couldn't have much feeling to look cheerful when her mother was in such a state; but the lady was stupid. She would wait on her own mother almost as devotedly as Miss Wylder, but with such a lugubrious countenance that her patient might well seek refuge from it in the grave. But it is no wonder she should be in good spirits: it is the first time in her life, she says, that she has been allowed to be of any use to her mother! Then she is not suffering pain, and that makes a great difference. But more than all, her mother has grown so tender to her, and so grateful, following her constantly about the room with her eyes, that the girl says she feels in a paradise of which her mother is the tutelar divinity, raying out bliss as she lies in bed! Also her father is kinder to her mother. Little signs of tenderness pass between them--a thing she has never known before! How could she be other than happy!--But what is this you tell me about going away? The library cannot be finished!"
Wingfold had dilated on the worth of Miss Wylder, and let Richard know of her happiness, out of genuine sympathy. He knew that, next to the worship of God, the true worship of a fellow-creature, in the old meaning of the word, is the most potent thing for deliverance.
"No, sir," answered Richard; "the library is left in mid ocean of decay. I don't know why they have dismissed me. The only thing clear is, that they want to be rid of me. What I have done I can't think. There is a little girl of the family--"
Here he told how Vixen had from the first behaved to him, and what things had happened in consequence, the last more particularly.
"But," he concluded, "I do not think it can be that. I should like to know what it is."
"Then wait," said Wingfold. "If we only wait long enough, every reason will come out. You know I believe we are not going to stop, but are meant to go on and on for ever; and I believe the business of eternity is to bring grand hidden things out into the light; and with them will come of necessity many other things as well, even some, I daresay, that we count trifles.--But I am sorry you're going."
"I don't see why you should be, sir!" answered Richard, his look taking from the words their seeming rudeness.
"Because I like you, and feel sure we should understand each other if only we had time," replied the parson. "It's a grand thing to come upon one who knows what you mean. It's so much of heaven before you get there.--If you think I'm talking shop, I can't help it--and I don't care, so long as you believe I mean it. I would not have you think it the Reverend Thomas and not Thomas himself that was saying it."
"I should never say you talked shop, sir; and I don't think you would say I was talking shop if I expatiated on the beauties of a Grolier binding! You would see I was not talking from love of gain, but love of beauty!"
"Thank you. You are a fair man, and that is even more than an honest man! I don't speak from love of religion; I don't know that I do love religion."
"I don't understand you now, sir."
"Look here: I am very fond of a well-bound book; I should like all my new books bound in levant morocco; but I don't care about it; I could do well enough without any binding at all."
"Of course you could, sir! and so could I, or any man that cared for the books themselves."
"Very well! I don't care about religion much, but I could not live without my Father in heaven. I don't believe anybody can live without him."
"I see," said Richard.
He thought he saw, but he did not see, and could not help smiling in his heart as he said to himself, "I have lived a good many years without him!"
Wingfold saw the shadow of the smile, and blamed himself for having spoken too soon.
"When do you go?" he asked.
"I think I shall go to-morrow. I am at my grandfather's."
"If I can be of use to you, let me know."
"I will, sir; and I thank you heartily. There's nothing a man is so grateful for as friendliness."
"The obligation is mutual," said Wingfold.
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