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The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him,
As I listened to such words, I might almost say with a great Christian, “ Their glory was then so weighty on me, that I was both once and twice ready to swoon as I 'sat; yet not with grief and trouble, but with solid joy and 'peace'; and, going to my own room, hours went by,– often till a summer's dawning broadened over the landscape (and if this deserve scorn, I take it gladly) in a thousand prayers for all blessings known to me or unknown on Désirée, for the grace which should make the suppliant worthy of her, for the hope of life. Nor were these exercises of faith narrowed to leisure or silent hours : such thoughts were my litany at every turning-point, everything begun or ended throughout the day. The college routine of chapel attendance, judged of by Wordsworth in the · Prelude'as most thinking men will judge it, was then to me, bound in this passionate superstition, one happy privilege more, an hour set aside by a holy consecration to summon up the thoughts of Love in her
own native place, to be in closer communion with Désirée :
in its loftiest thunders shook the prophets blazon'd on the panes,' to speak her name aloud; to intercalate it in every supplication of the Liturgy. When I add, with truth I may, that an earnest endeavour to carry the precepts of the faith into daily life, and some success, some faults the fewer, some sturdier activity
as the organ
pages, and laid
in facing labour and amusement, some penitential renunciation of sin accompanied them, need I further add, that the boy never doubted the efficacy of his prayers ?-prayers, he thought, inscribed surely on some purple
within the archives of Heaven. VII But the answer was not to be yet. When it came, and then after God's fearful irony, by years more granted for deeper appreciation of that dear one, had poisoned the loss with a tenfold bitterness, was I to be blamed, if unable not to give this contradiction between express promise and utter unfulfilment its only name? That a million prayers, and no prayers should bring the same result, is it not sad? If individual experiences are with justice allowed weighty to prove the truth of supernatural mercy, if men appeal to the blessings they enjoy, the things Heaven has done for them, can experiences absolutely opposite be without weight also ? I hear the sophist's shallow murmur
apparent contradiction'; I know the answers that many who have not undergone such trial, and some who have, will bring forward with triumphant readiness: they shall be hereafter considered: one only I meet here with a denial the most forcible I can find words for. That which God for whatever inscrutable purposes withheld, counted high amongst His highest blessings. There lies the bitterness past death, the irremediable calamity. It is truly not the lost Faith I mourn, but the lost Darling. With humble uncertainty on the mysteries I rest satisfied : but the many desolate years have given me large opportunity to judge, and this in circumstances which might well leave the mind free for dispassionate judgment, that in my honoured Désirée I should have gained all that the reason can most calmly prize, or the heart most fondly long for. Tears of blood, were such
possible, would faintly render the pain of this confession: for one who in the annals of revelation, even most literally interpreted, in the presages of Nature can read no authentic promise that personal recognition, renewal of human sympathies, are amongst the blessings of the most highly blessed eternity, it is to own I have lost the great treasure of existence for ever. Such she had now become. For during that tardy and imperfect advance of mine, the process of nineteen seasons had carried Désirée harmoniously forward many steps towards an excellence seldom perhaps appreciated, seldom attained. Of what she had been hitherto, I, thinking a child's judgment on a child of slight value, have said little : any picture I can draw, will of course be inefficient; yet I must. I take her guardian angel to witness for the sincerity of my words: the praise others may naturally misesteem as partiality, will to him appear beneath her deserts ; he knows that if I loved his nurseling too well, yet that to love Désirée was in itself to love wisely.
VIII And yet the character I have to describe in some degree fell short, far short, it may be, of perfection ; nor were the faults such as, perhaps for the grace and compliment of saying it, men say often, endear any dear one
The phrase is pretty, but even applied to others, it has never seemed to me quite sincere ; much less would I have borne to think so slightingly of Désirée as not to wish her in every conjuncture and circumstance wisest, • virtuousest, discreetest, best'; and, O! without one touch of dread that she could thus become less humanly dear.
That I gave her so many years of love, all that made life life, and in vain, should I, I have heard it so estimated, count this a fault? Did I err in holding her capacity of affection not less than her rich inheritance of
other gifts? O no ; blind with vanity should I be to judge thus; yet, open-hearted and trustful as she was with all, and attracted specially always by what seemed brave and open, often I wished her less credulous of superficial heroism, a little more willing to accept simple affection, a little more conscientious in discrimination between friend and friend - between those she amused, and those to whom she was all in all. I have seen her too self-reliant from pure unconsciousness of self; too hastily censorious from the rebound, as it were, of her own frank submission to censure ; for there is, (and this perhaps was such), a selfishness which springs from the very root of unselfishness.
Who keeps a spirit wholly true
I could judge Désirée by no standard less than Désirée; the high nature, frank heart, clear reason, pure aspiration: -God had, in creating, laid upon this fair child the noble duty (and to so few has He allotted capacity even approximately sufficient, that except for one like her it can hardly be held a woman's duty)-in all things to seek and hold fundamental truth : never be swayed by friendship, or custom, or authority against the decisions of the larger, and, if I may so say, the heroic conscience : to leave no veil between herself and what was so near her, the illuminating Spirit. If at times she declined from this arduous ideal, could I not regret? It is want of courage and imagination which in popular estimate renders ideal perfection distasteful: nothing, I thought, would be too high for Désirée. To her capable mind, again, it was unjust that delight in society, fancy, or indolence, should deny any rightful and serious study, any light from honourable knowledge. The worst injustice is self-injustice ; and
here, I have often thought, was a little. Perhaps, as one too happy in her happiness — perhaps, from a native independence of soul so strong that it measured all by her own holy simplicity,' she, forgetful always of herself, could be, or seem, in little things forgetful of others ; too confident of love to care for the expression of sympathy; inclined to slight all slights; and less willing to confess the error of today than to efface it by a thousand gracious words and deeds of thoughtful kindness tomorrow. This dear dear creature, in a word, was blessed so largely with God's rarest gift of nobleness, that, in the warmth and flush of girlhood, if she erred, it was from a transitory stress of overflowing nature. When I heard her misjudged or blamed by any others, her faults, even acknowledged, arose (I thought) from an excellence beyond their appreciation. And if at such moments it was not in nature to resist the delight of defending Désirée, immediately I regretted I had not, with Dante, held my peace, and let the world say its will’; satisfied to the full with my own truer estimate of her worth, and holding her far too dear to care to bias others in her favour.
IX Far indeed was Désirée from over-care, from any care almost for her judgment by general acquaintances, those who knew her, and no more ; in a word, by the world, as I take the term ordinarily to signify. But that any could see her and not judge her truly, often at first surprized me. For hers, as with all great souls, was a character graced by an exquisite unity : all thoughts, all
passions, all delights' in her flowed from that predominating nobleness. From the first glance of those violet eyes to the last, lighted up though they might be with all our human variety of feeling, this confession at least I never failed to read there; the emanations of this glorious