George MacDonald.

David Elginbrod, Volume 2 online

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Humbled by his sense of unworthiness, and a little
distressed that she could so quietly reveal the depth of
her feeling towards him, he said:

"Ah, Margaret! I wish you would not praise one
so little deserving it."

"Praise?" she repeated^ with an accent of wonder.
"I praise you! No, Mr. Sutherland; that. I am not
guilty of. Next to my father, you made me know and
feel. And as I walked here, I was thinking of the old



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THE FiR-WOOD AGAIN. 307

times, and older times still; and all at once I saw the
very picture out of the old Bible."

She came close to him now. He rose, trembling,
but held out no hand, uttered no greeting.

"Margaret, dare I love you?" he faltered.

She looked at him with wide-open eyes.

"if<?P" she said; and her eyes did not move from
his. A slight rose-flush bloomed out on her motion-
less face.

"Will you be my wife?" he said, trembling yet
more.

She made no answer, but looked at him still, with
parted lips, motionless. ^

"I am very poor, Margaret. I could not marry
now."

It was a stupid speech, but he made it.

"I don't care," she answered, with a voice like
thinking, "if you never marry me."

He misunderstood her, and turned cold to the very
heart. He misunderstood her stillness. Her heart lay
so deep, that it took a long time for its feelings to
reach and agitate the surface. He said no more, but
turned away with a sigh.

"Come home to my mother," she said.

He obeyed mechanically, and walked in silence by
her side. They reached the cottage and entered.
Margaret said: "Here he is, mother;" and disappeared.

Janet was seated — in her widow's mutch, with the
plain black ribbon down both sides, and round the
back — in the arm-chair by the fire, pondering on the
past, or gently dreaming of him that was gone. She
turned her head. Sorrow had baptized her face with
a new gentleness. The tender expression which had



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3o8 DAVID ELGINBROD.

been but occasional while her husband lived, was al-
most constant now. She did not recognize Hugh.
He saw it, and it added weight to his despair. He
was left outside.

"Mother!" he said, involuntarily.

She started to her feet, cried: "My bairn! my
bairn!" threw her arms around him, and laid her
head on his bosom. Hugh sobbed as if his heart
would break. Janet wept, but her weeping was quiet
as a simimer rain. He led her to her chair, knelt by
her side, and hiding his face in her lap like a child,
faltered out, interrupted by convulsive sobs:

"Forgive me; forgive me. I don't deserve it, but
forgive me."

"Hoot awa! my bairn! my bonny man! Dinna
greet that gait. The Lord preserve's! what are ye
greetin' for? Are na ye come hame to yer ain?
Didna Dawvid aye say — *Gie the lad time, woman.
It's unco chaip, for the Lord's aye makin't. The best
things is aye the maist plentifu'. Gie the lad time,
my bonny woman!' — didna he say that? Ay, he ca'd
me his bonny woman, ill as I deserved it at his han'.
An' it's no for me to say ae word agen you, Maister
Sutherlan', gin ye had been a hantle waur nor a young
thochtless lad cudna weel help bein'. An' noo ye're
come hame, an' nothing cud glaidden my heart mair,
'cep', maybe, the Maister himsel' was to say to my
man: * Dawvid! come furth.'"

Hugh could make no reply. He got hold of Mar-
garet's creepie, which stood in its usual place, and sat
down upon it, at the old woman's feet. She gazed in
his face for a while, and then, putting her arm round



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THE FIR- WOOD AGAIN. 309

his neck, drew his head to her bosom, and fondled
him as if he had been her own first-born.

"But eh I yer bonnie face is sharp an' sma' to what
it used to be, Maister Sutherlan'. I doot ye hae come
through a heap o' trouble."

"I'll tell you all about it," said Hugh.

"Na, na; bide still a wee. I ken a' aboot it frae
Maggy., An' guid preserve's! ye're clean perished wi'
cauld. Lat me up, my bairn."

Janet rose, and made up the fire, which soon cast
a joyful glow throughout the room. The peat-fire in
the little cottage was a good symbol of the heart of
its mistress: it gave far more heat than light. And
for my part, dear as light is, I like heat better. She
then put on the kettle, — or the boiler I think she called
it — saying:

"I'm jist gaein' to mak' ye a cup o' tay, Mr. Su-
therlan'. It's the handiest thing, ye ken. An' I doot
ye're muckle in want o' something. Wad ye no tsik'
a drappy oot o' the bottle, i' the mane time?"

"No, thank you," said Hugh, who longed to be
alone, for his heart was cold as ice; "I would rather
wait for the tea; but I should be glad to have a good
wash, after my journey."

"Come yer wa's, than, ben the hoose. I'll jist
gang an' get a drappy o' het water in a decanter.
Bide ye still by the fire."

Hugh stood, and gazed into the peat^fire. But he
saw nothing in it. A light step passed him several
times, but he did not heed it. The loveliest eyes
looked earnestly towards him as they passed, but his
were not lifted to meet their gaze.

"Noo, Maister Sutherlan', come this way."



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310 DAVID ELGINBROD.

Hugh was left alone at length, in the room where
David had slept, where David had used to pray. He
fell on his knees, and rose comforted by the will of
God. A few things of Margaret's were about the
room. The dress he had seen her in at Mrs. Elton's,
was hanging by the bed. He kissed the folds of the
garment, and said: "God's will be done." He had
just finished a hasty ablution when Janet called him.

"Come awa', Maister Sutherlan'; come ben to yer
ain chaumer," said she, leading the way to the room
she still called the study. Margaret was there. The
room was just as he had left it. A bright fire was on
the hearth. Tea was on the table, with eggs, and
oatcakes, ^Xid flour-scons in abundance; for Janet had
the best she could get for Margaret, who was only her
guest for a little while. ^But Hugh could not eat.
Janet looked distressed, and Margaret glanced at him
uneasily.

"Do eat something, Mr. SuUierland," said Mar-
garet.

Hugh looked at her involuntarily. She did not
understand his look, and it alarmed her. EUs counte-
nance was changed.

"What is the matter, dear-^ Hugh?" she said,

rising, and laying her hand on his shoulder.

"HootsI lassie," broke in her mother; "are ye
makin' love till a man, a gentleman , afore my verra
een?"

"He did it first, mother," answered Margaret, with
a smile.

A pang of hope shot through Hugh's heart.

"Ow! that's the gait o't, is't? The bairn's gane



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THE FIR-WOOD AGAIN. 3II

demeniit! Ye*re no efter merrjan' a gentleman,
Maggy? Na, na, lass!"

So saying, the old lady, rather crossly, and very
imprudently, left the room to fill the teapot in the
kitchen.

"Do you remember this?" said Margaret, — who
felt that Hugh must have misunderstood something or
other, — taking from her pocket a little book, and from
the book a withered flower.

Hugh saw that it was like a primrose, and hoped
against hope that it was the one which he had given
to her, on the spring morning in the fir-wood. Still,
a feeling very different from his might have made her
preserve it. He must know all about it.

"Why did you keep that?" he said.

"Because I loved you."

"Loved me?"

"Yes. Didn't you know?"

"Why did you say, then, that you didn't care
if_if_?"

"Because love is enough, Hugh. — That was why."



THE END.



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Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldDavid Elginbrod, Volume 2 → online text (page 20 of 20)