During the rest of his round he did not find it easy to give due attention to his other cases. His custom was to brood upon them as he rode; but now that look and the tears that followed seemed to bewilder him, taking from him all command of his thought.
Ere long the shadow that ever haunts the steps of the angel, Love, the shadow whose name is Beneficence, began to reassume its earlier tyranny. Oh, the bliss of knowing one’s self the source of well-being, the stay and protector, the comfort and life, to such a woman! of wrapping her round in days of peace, instead of anxiety and pain and labor! But ever the thought of her looking up to him as the source of her freedom, was present through it all. What a glory to be the object of such looks as he had never in his dearest dreams imagined! It made his head swim, even in the very moment while his great Ruber, astonished at what his master required of him that day, rose to some high thorny hedge, or stiff rail. He was perfectly honest; the consequence he sought was only in his own eyes—and in hers; there was nothing of vulgar patronage in the feeling; not an atom of low purpose for self in it. The whole mental condition was nothing worse than the blossom of the dream of his childhood—the dream of being the benefactor of his race, of being loved and worshiped for his kindness. But the poison of the dream had grown more active in its blossom. Since then the credit of goodness with himself had gathered sway over his spirit; and stoical pride in goodness is a far worse and lower thing than delight in the thanks of our fellows. He was a mere slave to his own ideal, and that ideal was not brother to the angel that beholds the face of the Father. Now he had taken a backward step in time, but a forward step in his real history, for again another than himself had a part in his dream. It would be long yet, however, ere he learned so to love goodness as to forget its beauty. To him who is good, goodness has ceased to be either object or abstraction; it is in him—a thirst to give; a solemn, quiet passion to bless; a delight in beholding well-being. Ah, how we dream and prate of love, until the holy fire of the true divine love, the love that God kindles in a man toward his fellows, burns the shadow of it out!
In the afternoon Mrs. Puckridge appeared with the ring. He took it, told her to wait, and went out. In a few minutes he returned, and, to the woman’s astonishment, gave her fifty pounds in notes. He did not tell her he had been to nobody but his own banker. The ring he laid carefully aside, with no definite resolve concerning it, but the great hope of somehow managing that it should return to her one day. The thought shot across his heaven—what a lovely wedding present it would make! and the meteor drew a long train of shining fancies after it.
THE PARLOR AT OWLKIRK.