« ForrigeFortsett »
only dusty little sparrows and an occasional raven-staring atI cannot call it a group-well, it was a group vertically, if not laterally--and not knowing or caring what to make of it, only to look at Lucy, and satisfy her undefined and undefinable love by the beholding of its object. She loved what was lovely without in the least knowing that it was lovely, or what lovely meant. And while Lucy gazed at Poppie, with a vague impression that she had seen the child before, she could not help thinking of the contrast between the magnificent abode of the Morgensterns-for magnificent it was even in London--and the lip of the nest from which the strange child preached down into the world the words “friends and neighbours."
But she could say nothing more to Mattie till she had told, word for word, the whole story to Mrs. Morgenstern, who, she knew, would heartily enjoy the humour of it. Nor was Lucy, who loved her Lord very truly, even more thza she knew, though she was no theologian like Thomas, in the least deterred from speaking of Somebody, by the fact that Mrs. Morgenstern did not receive him as the Messiah of her nation. If he did not hesitate to show himself where he knew he would not be accepted, why should she hesitate to speak his name? And why should his name not be mentioned to those who, although they had often been persecuted in his name by those who did not understand his mind, might well be proud that the man who was conquering the world by his strong beautiful will, was a Jew?
But from the rather severe indisposition of her grandmother, she was unable to tell the story to Mrs. Morgenstern till the very morning of the gathering.
CAN I hope to move my readers to any pitiful sympathy with Mrs. Worboise, the whole fabric of whose desires was thus gliding into an abyss ? That she is not an interesting woman, I admit ; but at the same time, I venture to express a doubt whether our use of the word uninteresting really expresses anything more than our own ignorance. If we could look into the movements of any heart, I doubt very much whether that heart would be any longer uninteresting to us. Come with me, reader, while I endeavour, with some misgiving, I confess, to open a peep into the heart of this mother, which I have tried hard, though with scarcely satisfactory success, to understand. Her chief faculty lay in negations.
Her whole life was a kind
of negation-a negation of warmth, a negation of impulse, a negation of beauty, a negation of health. When Thomas was a child, her chief communication with him was in negatives. “ You must not; you are not; do not ;” and so on. Her theory of the world was humanity deprived of God. Because of something awful in the past, something awful lay in the future. To escape from the consequences of a condition which you could not help, you must believe certain things after a certain fashion, hold, in fact, certain theories with regard to the most difficult questions, on which too you were incapable of thinking correctly. Him who held these theories you must regard as a fellow-favourite of heaven ; who held them not you would do well to regard as a publican and a sinner, even if he should be the husband of your bosom. All the present had value only in reference to the future. All your strife must be to become something you are not at all now, to feel what you do not feel, to judge against your nature, to regard everything in you as opposed to your salvation, and God who is far away from you, and whose ear is not always ready to hear, as your only deliverer from the consequences he has decreed, and this in virtue of no immediate relation to you, but from regard to another whose innocent suffering is to your guilt the only counterpoise weighty enough to satisfy his justice. All her anxiety for her son turned upon his final escape from punishment. She did not torment her soul, her nights were not sleepless with the fear that her boy should be unlike Christ, that he might do that which was mean, selfish, dishonest, cowardly, vile, but with the fear that he was or might be doomed to an eternal suffering.
Now, in so far as this idea had laid hold of the boy, it had aroused the instinct of self-preservation, mingled with a repellent feeling in regard to God. All that was poor and common and selfish in him was stirred up on the side of religion; all that was noble (and of that there was far more than my reader will yet fancy) was stirred up against it. The latter, however, was put down by degrees, leaving the whole region, when the far outlook of selfishness should be dimmed by the near urgings of impulse, open to the inroads of the enemy, enfeebled and ungarrisoned. Ah! if she could have told the boy, every time his soul was lifted up within hin by any, thing beautiful, or great, or true, That, my boy, is God God telling you that you must be beautiful, and great, and true, else you cannot be his child !" If every time he uttered his delight in flower or bird, she had, instead of speaking of sin and shortcoming, spoken of love and aspiration towards the Father of Light, the God of Beauty! If she had been able to show him that what he admired in Byron's heroes, even, was the truth, courage, and honesty, hideously mingled, as it might be, with cruelty and conceit, and lies! But almost everything except the Epistles seemed to her of the devil and not of God. She was even jealous of the Gospel of God,
lest it should lead him astray from the interpretation she put upon it. She did not understand that nothing can convince of sin but the vision of holiness; that to draw near to the Father is to leave self behind ; that the Son of God appeared that by the sight of Himself He might convince the world of sin. But then hers was a life that had never broken the shell, while through the shell the worm of suffering had eaten, and was boring into her soul. Have pity and not contempt, reader who would not be like her. She did not believe in her own love even as from God, and therefore she restrained it before the lad. So he had no idea of how she loved him. If she had only thrown her arms about him, and let her heart out towards him, which surely it is right to do sometimes at least, how differently would he have listened to what she had to say! His heart was being withered on the side next his mother for lack of nourishment: there are many lives ruined because they have not had tenderness enough. Kindness is not tenderness. She could not represent God to the lad. , instead of constantly referring to the hell that lies in the future, she had reminded him of the begin nings of that hell in his own bosom, appealing to himself whether there was not a faintness there that indicated something wrong, a dull pain that might grow to a burning agony, a consciousness of wrong-doing, thinking, and feeling, a sense of a fearful pit and a miry clay within his own being, from which he would gladly escape, a failing even from the greatness of such grotesque ideals as he loved in poetry, a meanness, paltriness, and at best insignificance of motive and action,-and then told him that out of this was God stretching forth the hand to take and lift him, that he was waiting to exalt him to a higher ideal of manhood than anything which it had entered into his heart to conceive, that he would make him clean from the defilement which he was afraid to confess to himself because it lowered him in his own esteem,--then perhaps the words of his mother, convincing him that God was not against him but for him, on the side of his best feelings and against his worst, might have sunk into the heart of the weak youth, and he would straightway have put forth what strength he had, and so begun to be strong. For he who acts has strength, is strong, and will be stronger. But she could not tell him this : she did not know it herself. Her religion was something there, then, not here, now. She would give Mr. Simon a five-pound note for his scripture-reading amongst the poor, and the moment after refuse the request of her needlewoman from the same district who begged her to raise her wages from eighteenpence to two shillings a day. Religion--the bond be. tween man and God-had nothing to do with the earnings of a sister, whose pale face told of “penury and pine,” a sadder story even than that written upon the countenance of the invalid, for to labour in weakness, longing for rest, is harder than to endure a good deal of pain upon a sofa. Until we begin to learn that the
only way to serve God in any real sense of the word, is to serve our neighbour, we may have knocked at the wicket-gate, but I doubt if we have got one foot across the threshold of the kingdom.
Add to this condition of mind a certain uncomfortable effect produced upon the mother by the son's constantly reminding her of the father whom she had quite given up trying to love, and I think my reader will be a little nearer to the understanding of the relation, if such it could well be called, between the two. The eyes of both were as yet unopened to the poverty of their own condition. The mother especially said that she was“ rich, and had need of nothing," when she was wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." But she had a hard nature to begin with, and her pain occupied her all the more that she neither sought nor accepted sympathy. And although she was none the less a time-server and a worldly-minded woman, that she decried worldliness and popery, and gave herself to the saving of her soul, yet the God who makes them loves even such people and knows all about them; and it is well for them that he is their judge and not we.
Let us now turn to another woman-Mrs. Morgenstern. I will tell you what she was like. She was a Jewess and like a Jewess. But there is as much difference between Jewesses as there is between English women. Is there any justice in fixing upon the lowest as the type? How does the Scotchman like to have his nation represented by the man outside the tobacco-shop? or by the can. tankerous logician and theologian so well known to some of us? There is a Jewess that flaunts in gorgeous raiment and unclean linen ; and there is a Jewess noble as a queen, and pure as a daisy fit to belong to that nation of which Mary the mother was born. Mrs. Morgenstern was of the latter class--tall, graceful, even majestic in the fashion of her form and carriage. Every feature was Jewish, and yet she might have been English, or Spanish, or German just as well. Her eyes were darkblack, I would say, if I had ever seen black eyes—and proud, yet with a dove-like veil over their fire. Sometimes there was even a trouble to be seen in them, as of a rainy mist amidst the glow of a southern sky I never could be quite sure what this trouble meant. She was rich, therefore she had no necessity; she was not avaricious, and therefore she had no fear of dying in the workhouse. She had but one child, therefore she was neither wearied with motherhood, nor a sufferer fra suppresssd maternity, red by which divine impulse so many women take to poodles instead of orphans. Her child was healthy and active, and gave her no anxiety. That she loved her husband, no one who saw those eastern eyes rest upon him for a moment could doubt. What then could be the cause of that slight restlessness, that gauzy change, that pensive shadow? I think that there was more love in her yet than knew how to get out of her. She would look round sometimes it was a poculiar movement
just as if some child had been pulling at her skirts. She liad lost a child, but I do not think that was the cause. And whether it was or was not, I do believe that nothing but the love of God will satisfy the power of love in any woman's bosom. But did not Rebecca-they loved their old Jewish names, that family-did not Rebecca Morgenstern love God? Truly Í think she did-but not enough to satisfy herself. And I venture to say more : I do not believe she could love him to the degree necessary for her own peace till she recognized the humanity in him. But she was more under the influences emanating from the story of the humanity of God than she knew herself. At all events she was a most human and lovely lady, full of grace and truth, like Mary before she was a Christian ; and it took a good while, namely all her son's life and longer, to make her one. Rebecca Morgenstern never became a Christian. But she loved children, whether they were Christians
And she loved the poor whether they were Christians or not; and, like Dorcas, made and caused to be made coats and garments for them. And, for my part, I know, if I had the choice, whether I would appear before the Master in the train of the unbelieving Mrs. Morgenstern or that of the believing Mrs. Worboise. And as to self-righteousness, I think there is far less of that amongst those who regard the works of righteousness as the means of salvation, than amongst those by whom faith itself is degraded into a work of merit-a condition by fulfilling which they become fit for God's mercy; for such is the trick which the old Adam and the Enemy together are ready enough to play the most orthodox, in despite of the purity of their creed.
ALTHOUGH Mrs. Boxall, senior, was still far from well, yet when the morning of Mrs. Morgenstern's gathering dawned, lovely even in the midst of London, and the first sun-rays, with green tinges and rosy odours hanging about their golden edges, stole into her room, reminding her of the old paddock and the feeding cows at Bucks Horton, in Buckinghamshire, she resolved that Lucy should go to Mrs. Morgenstern's. So the good old lady set herself to feel better in order that she might be better, and by the time Lucy, who had slept in the same room with her grandmother since her illness, awoke, she was prepared to persuade her that she was quite well enough to let her have a holiday.
“But how am I to leave you, grannie, all alone ? " objected Lucy. “Oh! I daresay that queer little Mattie of yours will come in