Robert Falconer by George MacDonald
Part III.--His Manhood
Chapter XX. The Vanishing.
They came to see me the very evening of their arrival. As to Andrew's progress there could be no longer any doubt. All that was necessary for conviction on the point was to have seen him before and to see him now. The very grasp of his hand was changed. But not yet would Robert leave him alone.
It will naturally occur to my reader that his goodness was not much yet. It was not. It may have been greater than we could be sure of, though. But if any one object that such a conversion, even if it were perfected, was poor, inasmuch as the man's free will was intromitted with, I answer: 'The development of the free will was the one object. Hitherto it was not free.' I ask the man who says so: 'Where would your free will have been if at some period of your life you could have had everything you wanted?' If he says it is nobler in a man to do with less help, I answer, 'Andrew was not noble: was he therefore to be forsaken? The prodigal was not left without the help of the swine and their husks, at once to keep him alive and disgust him with the life. Is the less help a man has from God the better?' According to you, the grandest thing of all would be for a man sunk in the absolute abysses of sensuality all at once to resolve to be pure as the empyrean, and be so, without help from God or man. But is the thing possible? As well might a hyena say: I will be a man, and become one. That would be to create. Andrew must be kept from the evil long enough to let him at least see the good, before he was let alone. But when would we be let alone? For a man to be fit to be let alone, is for a man not to need God, but to be able to live without him. Our hearts cry out, 'To have God is to live. We want God. Without him no life of ours is worth living. We are not then even human, for that is but the lower form of the divine. We are immortal, eternal: fill us, O Father, with thyself. Then only all is well.' More: I heartily believe, though I cannot understand the boundaries of will and inspiration, that what God will do for us at last is infinitely beyond any greatness we could gain, even if we could will ourselves from the lowest we could be, into the highest we can imagine. It is essential divine life we want; and there is grand truth, however incomplete or perverted, in the aspiration of the Brahmin. He is wrong, but he wants something right. If the man had the power in his pollution to will himself into the right without God, the fact that he was in that pollution with such power, must damn him there for ever. And if God must help ere a man can be saved, can the help of man go too far towards the same end? Let God solve the mystery--for he made it. One thing is sure: We are his, and he will do his part, which is no part but the all in all. If man could do what in his wildest self-worship he can imagine, the grand result would be that he would be his own God, which is the Hell of Hells.
For some time I had to give Falconer what aid I could in being with his father while he arranged matters in prospect of their voyage to India. Sometimes he took him with him when he went amongst his people, as he called the poor he visited. Sometimes, when he wanted to go alone, I had to take him to Miss St. John, who would play and sing as I had never heard any one play or sing before. Andrew on such occasions carried his flute with him, and the result of the two was something exquisite. How Miss St. John did lay herself out to please the old man! And pleased he was. I think her kindness did more than anything else to make him feel like a gentleman again. And in his condition that was much.
At length Falconer would sometimes leave him with Miss St. John, till he or I should go for him: he knew she could keep him safe. He knew that she would keep him if necessary.
One evening when I went to see Falconer, I found him alone. It was one of these occasions.
'I am very glad you have come, Gordon,' he said. 'I was wanting to see you. I have got things nearly ready now. Next month, or at latest, the one after, we shall sail; and I have some business with you which had better be arranged at once. No one knows what is going to happen. The man who believes the least in chance knows as little as the man who believes in it the most. My will is in the hands of Dobson. I have left you everything.'
I was dumb.
'Have you any objection?' he said, a little anxiously.
'Am I able to fulfil the conditions?' I faltered.
'I have burdened you with no conditions,' he returned. 'I don't believe in conditions. I know your heart and mind now. I trust you perfectly.'
'I am unworthy of it.'
'That is for me to judge.'
'Will you have no trustees?'
'What do you want me to do with your property?'
'You know well enough. Keep it going the right way.'
'I will always think what you would like.'
'No; do not. Think what is right; and where there is no right or wrong plain in itself, then think what is best. You may see good reason to change some of my plans. You may be wrong; but you must do what you see right--not what I see or might see right.'
'But there is no need to talk so seriously about it,' I said. 'You will manage it yourself for many years yet. Make me your steward, if you like, during your absence: I will not object to that.'
'You do not object to the other, I hope?'
'Then so let it be. The other, of course. I have, being a lawyer myself, taken good care not to trust myself only with the arranging of these matters. I think you will find them all right.'
'But supposing you should not return--you have compelled me to make the supposition--'
'Of course. Go on.'
'What am I to do with the money in the prospect of following you?'
'Ah! that is the one point on which I want a word, although I do not think it is necessary. I want to entail the property.'
'By word of mouth,' he answered, laughing. 'You must look out for a right man, as I have done, get him to know your ways and ideas, and if you find him worthy--that is a grand wide word--our Lord gave it to his disciples--leave it all to him in the same way I have left it to you, trusting to the spirit of truth that is in him, the spirit of God. You can copy my will--as far as it will apply, for you may have, one way or another, lost the half of it by that time. But, by word of mouth, you must make the same condition with him as I have made with you--that is, with regard to his leaving it, and the conditions on which he leaves it, adding the words, "that it may descend thus in perpetuum." And he must do the same.'
He broke into a quiet laugh. I knew well enough what he meant. But he added:
'That means, of course, for as long as there is any.'
'Are you sure you are doing right, Falconer?' I said.
'Quite. It is better to endow one man, who will work as the Father works, than a hundred charities. But it is time I went to fetch my father. Will you go with me?'
This was all that passed between us on the subject, save that, on our way, he told me to move to his rooms, and occupy them until he returned.
'My papers,' he added, 'I commit to your discretion.'
On our way back from Queen Square, he joked and talked merrily. Andrew joined in. Robert showed himself delighted with every attempt at gaiety or wit that Andrew made. When we reached the house, something that had occurred on the way made him turn to Martin Chuzzlewit, and he read Mrs. Gamp's best to our great enjoyment.
I went down with the two to Southampton, to see them on board the steamer. I staid with them there until she sailed. It was a lovely morning in the end of April, when at last I bade them farewell on the quarter-deck. My heart was full. I took his hand and kissed it. He put his arms round me, and laid his cheek to mine. I was strong to bear the parting.
The great iron steamer went down in the middle of the Atlantic, and I have not yet seen my friend again.