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Chapter III.4
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.
I went on without hesitating, without even a thought of turning back. I had said
that the honour of my family should not suffer by the calamity which had fallen on
me; and, while life remained, I was determined that nothing should prevent me
from holding to my word. It was from this resolution that I drew the faith in myself,
the confidence in my endurance, the sustaining calmness under my father's
sentence of exclusion, which nerved me to go on. I must inevitably see Mr.
Sherwin (perhaps even suffer the humiliation of seeing her!)--must inevitably
speak such words, disclose such truths, as should show him that deceit was
henceforth useless. I must do this and more, I must be prepared to guard the
family to which--though banished from it--I still belonged, from every conspiracy