Another excerpt from The Lost Princess by George MacDonald. For me, where I am now, anxiety = group of some dozen wolves and hyenas. As Robert Frost tells us, “The best way out is always through.”
Then said the wise woman:—
“Below there is the forest which surrounds my house. I am going home. If you pledge to come there to me, I will help you, in a way I could not do now, to be good and lovely. I will wait you there all day, but if you start at once, you may be there long before noon. I shall have your breakfast waiting for you. One thing more: the beasts have not yet all gone home to their holes; but I give you my word, not one will touch you so long as you keep coming nearer to my house.”
She ceased. Rosamond sat waiting to hear something more; but nothing came. She looked up; she was alone.
Alone once more! Always being left alone, because she would not yield to what was right! Oh, how safe she had felt under the wise woman’s cloak! She had indeed been good to her, and she had in return behaved like one of the hyenas of the awful wood! What a wonderful house it was she lived in! And again all her own story came up into her brain from her repentant heart.
“Why didn’t she take me with her?” she said. “I would have gone gladly.” And she wept. But her own conscience told her that, in the very middle of her shame and desire to be good, she had returned no answer to the words of the wise woman; she had sat like a tree-stump, and done nothing. She tried to say there was nothing to be done; but she knew at once that she could have told the wise woman she had been very wicked, and asked her to take her with her. Now there was nothing to be done.
“Nothing to be done!” said her conscience. “Cannot you rise, and walk down the hill, and through the wood?”
“But the wild beasts!”
“There it is! You don’t believe the wise woman yet! Did she not tell you the beasts would not touch you?”
“But they are so horrid!”
“Yes, they are; but it would be far better to be eaten up alive by them than live on—such a worthless creature as you are. Why, you’re not fit to be thought about by any but bad ugly creatures.”
This was how herself talked to her.
All at once she jumped to her feet, and ran at full speed down the hill and into the wood. She heard howlings and yellings on all sides of her, but she ran straight on, as near as she could judge. Her spirits rose as she ran. Suddenly she saw before her, in the dusk of the thick wood, a group of some dozen wolves and hyenas, standing all together right in her way, with their green eyes fixed upon her staring. She faltered one step, then bethought her of what the wise woman had promised, and keeping straight on, dashed right into the middle of them. They fled howling, as if she had struck them with fire. She was no more afraid after that, and ere the sun was up she was out of the wood and upon the heath, which no bad thing could step upon and live. With the first peep of the sun above the horizon, she saw the little cottage before her, and ran as fast as she could run towards it, When she came near it, she saw that the door was open, and ran straight into the outstretched arms of the wise woman.
The wise woman kissed her and stroked her hair, set her down by the fire, and gave her a bowl of bread and milk.
When she had eaten it she drew her before her where she sat, and spoke to her thus:—
“Rosamond, if you would be a blessed creature instead of a mere wretch, you must submit to be tried.”
“Is that something terrible?” asked the princess, turning white.
“No, my child; but it is something very difficult to come well out of. Nobody who has not been tried knows how difficult it is; but whoever has come well out of it, and those who do not overcome never do come out of it, always looks back with horror, not on what she has come through, but on the very idea of the possibility of having failed, and being still the same miserable creature as before.”