Clara was in my father’s arms, her head lay on his shoulder, her face was as still in its heavenly calmness as if the world and the world’s looks knew it no more, and the only light that fell on it now, was light from the angel’s eyes. She had fainted.
He was standing with one arm round her, his disengaged hand was searching impatiently over the wall behind him for the bell, and his eyes were fixed in anguish and in love unutterable on the peaceful face, hushed in its sad repose so close beneath his own. For one moment, I saw him thus, ere I closed the door—the next, I had left the house.
I never entered it again—I have never seen my father since.
We are seldom able to discover under any ordinary conditions of self-knowledge, how intimately that spiritual part of us, which is undying, can attach to itself and its operations the poorest objects of that external world around us, which is perishable. In the ravelled skein, the slightest threads are the hardest to follow. In analysing the associations and sympathies which regulate the play of our passions, the simplest and homeliest are the last that we detect. It is only when the shock comes, and the mind recoils before it—when joy is changed into sorrow, or sorrow into joy—that we really discern what trifles in the outer world our noblest mental pleasures, or our severest mental pains, have made part of themselves; atoms which the whirlpool has drawn into its vortex, as greedily and as surely as the largest mass.
It was reserved for me to know this, when—after a moment’s pause before the door of my father’s house, more homeless, then, than the poorest wretch who passed me on the pavement, and had wife or kindred to shelter him in a garret that night—my steps turned, as of old, in the direction of North Villa.
Again I passed over the scene of my daily pilgrimage, always to the same shrine, for a whole year; and now, for the first time, I knew that there was hardly a spot along the entire way, which my heart had not unconsciously made beautiful and beloved to me by some association with Margaret Sherwin. Here was the friendly, familiar shop-window, filled with the glittering trinkets which had so often lured me in to buy presents for her, on my way to the house. There was the noisy street corner, void of all adornment in itself, but once bright to me with the fairy-land architecture of a dream, because I knew that at that place I had passed over half the distance which separated my home from hers. Farther on, the Park trees came in sight—trees that no autumn decay or winter nakedness could make dreary, in the bygone time; for she and I had walked under them together. And further yet, was the turning which led from the long, suburban road into Hollyoake Square—the lonely, dust-whitened place, around which my past happiness and my wasted hopes had flung their golden illusions, like jewels hung round the coarse wooden image of a Roman saint. Dishonoured and ruined, it was among such associations as these—too homely to have been recognised by me in former times—that I journeyed along the well-remembered way to North Villa.