Hipolito. Is your wife then departed?
Orlando. She's an old dweller in those high countries, yet not from me: here, she's here; a good couple are seldom parted. -- DEKKER.
WHAT wonderful things letters are! In trembling and hope the fingers unclasp, and the folded sheet drops into -- no, not the post-office letter-box -- but into space.
I have read a story somewhere of a poor child that dropped a letter into the post-office, addressed to Jesus Christ in Heaven. And it reached him, and the child had her answer. For was it not Christ present in the good man or woman -- I forget the particulars of the story -- who sent the child the help she needed? There was no necessity for him to answer in person, as in the case of Abgarus, king of Edessa.
Out of space from somewhere comes the answer. Such letters as those given in a previous chapter, are each a spirit-cry sent out, like a Noah's dove, into the abyss; and the spirit turns its ear, where its mouth had been turned before, and leans listening for the spirit-echo -- the echo with a soul in it -- the answering voice which out of the abyss will enter by the gate now turned to receive it. Whose will be the voice? What will be the sense? What chords on the harp of life have been struck afar off by the arrow-words of the letter? What tones will they send back to the longing, hungering ear? The mouth hath spoken, that the fainting ear may be filled by the return of its words through the alembic of another soul.
One cause of great uneasiness to Hugh was, that, for some time after a reply might have been expected, he received no answer from David Elginbrod. At length, however, a letter arrived, upon the hand-writing of which he speculated in vain, perplexed with a resemblance in it to some writing that he knew; and when he opened it, he found the following answer to his own:
|DEAR MR. SUTHERLAND, -- Your letter to my father has been sent to me by my mother, for what you will feel to be the sad reason, that he is no more in this world. But I cannot say it is so very sad to me to think that he is gone home, where my mother and I will soon join him. True love can wait well. Nor indeed, dear Mr. Sutherland, must you be too much troubled that your letter never reached him. My father was like God in this, that he always forgave anything the moment there was anything to forgive; for when else could there be such a good time? -- although, of course, the person forgiven could not know it till he asked for forgiveness. But, dear Mr. Sutherland, if you could see me smiling as I write, and could yet see how earnest my heart is in writing it, I would venture to say that, in virtue of my knowing my father as I do -- for I am sure I know his very soul, as near as human love could know it -- I forgive you, in his name, for anything and everything with which you reproach yourself in regard to him. Ah! how much I owe you! And how much he used to say he owed you! We shall thank you one day, when we all meet.
|I am, dear Mr. Sutherland,
|Your grateful scholar,
Hugh burst into tears on reading this letter, -- with no overpowering sense of his own sin, for he felt that he was forgiven; but with a sudden insight into the beauty and grandeur of the man whom he had neglected, and the wondrous loveliness which he had transmitted from the feminine part of his nature to the wholly feminine and therefore delicately powerful nature of Margaret. The vision he had beheld in the library at Arnstead, about which, as well as about many other things that had happened to him there, he could form no theory capable of embracing all the facts -- this vision returned to his mind's eye, and he felt that the glorified face he had beheld must surely have been Margaret's, whether he had seen it in the body or out of the body: such a face alone seemed to him worthy of the writer of this letter. Purposely or not, there was no address given in it; and to his surprise, when he examined the envelope with the utmost care, he could discover no postmark but the London one. The date-stamp likewise showed that it must have been posted in London.
|So,| said he to himself, |in my quest of a devil, I may cross the track of an angel, who knows? But how can she be here?|
To this of course he had no answer at hand.