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   Chapter 36 THE THICK DARKNESS.

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 10839

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The next day he was still better, and could not think why the doctor would not let him get up. As the day went on, he wondered yet more why Joan did not come to see him. Not once did the thought cross him that it was the doctor's doing. If it had, he would but have taken it for a precaution-as indeed it was, for the doctor's sake, not his. Jermyn would have as little intercourse between them as might be, till he should have sprung his spiritual mine. But he did all he could to prevent him from missing her, and the same night opened all his heart to Cosmo-that is, all the show-part of it.

[Illustration: THE NEXT DAY HE WAS STILL BETTER.]

In terms extravagant, which he seemed to use because he could not repress them, he told his frozen listener that his whole nature, heart and soul, had been for years bound up in Lady Joan; that he had again and again been tempted to deliver himself by death from despair; that if he had to live without her, he would be of no use in the world, but would cease to care for anything. He begged therefore his friend Cosmo Warlock, seeing he stood so well with the lady, to speak what he honestly could in his behalf; for if she would not favour him, he could no longer endure life. His had never been over full, for he had had a hard youth, in which he had often been driven to doubt whether there was indeed a God that cared how his creatures went on. He must not say all he felt, but life, he repeated, would be no longer worth leading without at least some show of favour from Lady Joan.

At any former time, such words would have been sufficient to displace Jermyn from the pedestal on which Cosmo had set him. What! if all the ladies in the world should forsake him, was not God yet the all in all? But now as he lay shivering, the words entering his ears seemed to issue from his soul. He listened like one whom the first sting has paralyzed, but who feels the more every succeeding invasion of death. It was a silent, yet a mortal struggle. He held down his heart like a wild beast, which, if he let it up for one moment, would fly at his throat and strangle him. Nor could the practiced eye of the doctor fail to perceive what was going on in him. He only said to himself-"Better him than me! He is young and will get over it better than I should." He read nobility and self-abnegation in every shadow that crossed the youth's countenance, telling of the hail mingled with fire that swept through his universe; and said to himself that all was on his side, that he had not miscalculated a hair's-breadth. He saw at the same time Cosmo's heroic efforts to hide his sufferings, and left him to imagine himself successful. But how Cosmo longed for his departure, that he might in peace despair!-for such seemed to himself his desire for solitude.

What is it in suffering that makes man and beast long for loneliness? I think it is an unknown something, more than self, calling out of the solitude-"Come to me!-Come!" How little of the tenderness our human souls need, and after which consciously or unconsciously they hunger, do we give or receive! The cry of the hurt heart for solitude, seems to me the call of the heart of God-changed by the echo of the tiny hollows of the heart of his creature-"Come out from among them: come to me, and I will give you rest!" He alone can give us the repose of love, the peace after which our nature yearns.

Hurt by the selfishness and greed of men, to escape from which we must needs go out of the world, worse hurt by our own indignation at their wrong, and our lack of patience under it, we are his creatures and his care still. The RIGHT he claims as his affair, and he will see it done; but the wrong is by us a thousand times well suffered, if it but drive us to him, that we may learn he is indeed our very lover.

That was a terrible night for Cosmo-a night billowy with black fire. It reminded him afterwards of nothing so much as that word of the Lord-THE POWER OF DARKNESS. It was not merely darkness with no light in it, but darkness alive and operative. He had hardly dared suspect the nature, and only now knew the force, and was about to prove the strength of the love with which he loved Joan. Great things may be foreseen, but they cannot be known until they arrive. His illness had been ripening him to this possibility of loss and suffering. His heart was now in blossom: for that some hearts must break;-I may not say in FULL blossom, for what the full blossom of the human heart is, the holiest saint with the mightiest imagination cannot know-he can but see it shine from afar.

It was a severe duty that was now required of him-I do not mean the performance of the final request the doctor had made-that Cosmo had forgotten, neither could have attempted with honesty; for the emotion he could not but betray, would have pleaded for himself, and not for his friend; it was enough that he must yield the lady of his dreams, become the lady as well of his waking and hoping soul. Perhaps she did not love Jermyn-he could not tell; but Jermyn was his friend and had trusted in him, confessing that his soul was bound up in the lady; one of them must go to the torture chamber, and when the QUESTION lay between him and another, Cosmo knew for which it must be. He alone was in Cosmo's hands; his own self was all he held and had power over, all he could offer, could yield. Mr. Simon had taught hi

m that, as a mother gives her children money to give, so God gives his children SELVES, with their wishes and choices, that they may have the true offering to lay upon the true altar; for on that altar nothing else will burn than SELVES.

"Very hard! A tyrannical theory!" says my reader? So will it forever appear to the man who has neither the courage nor the sense of law to enable him to obey. But that man shall be the eternal slave who says to Duty I WILL NOT. Nor do I care to tell such a man of the "THOUSAND FOLD"-of the truth concerning that altar, that it is indeed the nest of God's heart, in which the poor, unsightly, unfledged offering shall lie, until they come to shape and loveliness, and wings grow upon them to bear them back to us divinely precious. Cosmo THOUGHT none of all this now-it had vanished from his consciousness, but was present in his life-that is, in his action: he did not feel, he DID it all-did it even when nothing seemed worth doing.

How much greater a man than he was Jermyn! How much more worthy of the love of a woman like Joan! How good he had been to him! What a horrible thing it would be if Jermyn had saved his life that he might destroy Jermyn's! Perhaps Joan might have come one day to love him; but in the meantime how miserable she was with her brother, and when could he have delivered her! while here was one, and a far better than he, who could, the moment she consented, take her to a house of her own where she would be a free woman! For him to come in the way, would be to put his hand also to the rack on which the life of Joan lay stretched!

Again I say I do not mean that all this passed consciously through the mind of Cosmo during that fearful night. His suffering was too intense, and any doubt concerning duty too far from him, to allow of anything that could be called thought; but such were the fundamental facts that lay below his unselfquestioned resolve-such was the soil in which grew the fruits, that is, the deeds, the outcome of his nature. For himself, the darkness billowed and rolled about him, and life was a frightful thing.

For where was God this awful time? Nowhere within the ken of the banished youth. In his own feeling Cosmo was outside the city of life-not even among the dogs-outside with bare nothingness-cold negation. Alas for him who had so lately offered to help another to pray, thinking the hour would never come to him when he could not pray! It had COME! He did not try to pray. The thought of prayer did not wake in him! Let no one say he was punished for his overconfidence-for his presumption! There was no presumption in the matter; there was only ignorance. He had not learned-nor has any one learned more than in part-what awful possibilities lie the existence we call WE. He had but spoken from what he knew-that hitherto life for him had seemed inseparable from prayer to his Father. And was it separable? Surely not. He could not pray, true-but neither was he alive. To live, one must chose to live. He was dead with a death that was heavy upon him. There is a far worse death-the death that is content and suffers nothing; but annihilation is not death-is nothing like it. Cosmo's condition had no evil in it-only a ghastly imperfection-an abyssmal lack-an exhaustion at the very roots of being. God seemed away, as he could never be and be God. But every commonest day of his life, he who would be a live child of the living has to fight with the God-denying look of things, and believe that in spite of that look, seeming ever to assert that God has nothing to do with them, God has his own way-the best, the only, the live way, of being in everything, and taking his own pure, saving will in them; and now for a season Cosmo had fallen in the fight, and God seemed gone, and THINGS rushed in upon him and overwhelmed him. It was death. He did not yet know it-but it was not the loss of Joan, but the seeming loss of his God, that hollowed the last depth of his misery. But that is of all things the surest to pass; for God changing not, his life must destroy every false show of him. Cosmo was now one of those holy children who are bound hand and foot in the furnace, until the fire shall have consumed their bonds that they may pace their prison. Stifled with the smoke and the glow, he must yet for a time lie helpless; not yet could he lift up his voice and call upon the ice and the cold, the frost and the snow to bless the Lord, to praise and exalt him forever. But God was not far from him. Feelings are not scientific instruments for that which surrounds them; they but speak of themselves when they say, "I am cold; I am dark." Perhaps the final perfection will be when our faith is utterly and absolutely independent of our feelings. I dare to imagine this the final victory of our Lord, when he followed the cry of WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME? with the words, FATHER, INTO THY HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT.

Shall we then bemoan any darkness? Shall we not rather gird up our strength to encounter it, that we too from our side may break the passage for the light beyond? He who fights with the dark shall know the gentleness that makes man great-the dawning countenance of the God of hope. But that was not for Cosmo just yet. The night must fulfil its hours. Men are meant and sent to be troubled-that they may rise above the whole region of storm, above all possibility of being troubled.

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