THE MINISTER’S BEDROOM.
The next day, in the afternoon, old Lisbeth appeared at the rectory, with a hurried note, in which Dorothy begged Mr. Wingfold to come and see her father. The curate rose at once and went. When he reached the house, Dorothy, who had evidently been watching for his arrival, herself opened the door.
“What’s the matter?” he asked. “Nothing alarming, I hope?”
“I hope not,” she answered. There was a strange light on her face, like that of a sunless sky on a deep, shadowed well. “But I am a little alarmed about him. He has suffered much of late. Ah, Mr. Wingfold, you don’t know how good he is! Of course, being no friend to the church—”
“I don’t wonder at that, the church is so little of a friend to herself,” interrupted the curate, relieved to find her so composed, for as he came along he had dreaded something terrible.
“He wants very much to see you. He thinks perhaps you may be able to help him. I am sure if you can’t nobody can. But please don’t heed much what he says about himself. He is feverish and excited. There is such a thing—is there not?—as a morbid humility? I don’t mean a false humility, but one that passes over into a kind of self disgust.”
“I know what you mean,” answered the curate, laying down his hat: he never took his hat into a sick-room.
Dorothy led the way up the narrow creaking stairs.
It was a lowly little chamber in which the once popular preacher lay—not so good as that he had occupied when a boy, two stories above his father’s shop. That shop had been a thorn in his spirit in the days of his worldly success, but again and again this morning he had been remembering it as a very haven of comfort and peace. He almost forgot himself into a dream of it once; for one blessed moment, through the upper half of the window he saw the snow falling in the street, while he sat inside and half under the counter, reading Robinson Crusoe! Could any thing short of heaven be so comfortable?
As the curate stepped in, a grizzled head turned toward him a haggard face with dry, bloodshot eyes, and a long hand came from the bed to greet him.