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Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Mary Meehan and Distributed Proofreaders







THE FLIGHT OF THE SHADOW

By George MacDonald



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I. MRS. DAY BEGINS THE STORY

CHAPTER II. MISS MARTHA MOON

CHAPTER III. MY UNCLE

CHAPTER IV. MY UNCLE'S ROOM, AND MY UNCLE IN IT

CHAPTER V. MY FIRST SECRET

CHAPTER VI. I LOSE MYSELF

CHAPTER VII. THE MIRROR

CHAPTER VIII. THANATOS AND ZOE

CHAPTER IX. THE GARDEN

CHAPTER X. ONCE MORE A SECRET

CHAPTER XI. THE MOLE BURROWS

CHAPTER XII. A LETTER

CHAPTER XIII. OLD LOVE AND NEW

CHAPTER XIV. MOTHER AND UNCLE

CHAPTER XV. THE TIME BETWEEN

CHAPTER XVI. FAULT AND NO FAULT

CHAPTER XVII. THE SUMMONS

CHAPTER XVIII. JOHN SEES SOMETHING

CHAPTER XIX. JOHN IS TAKEN ILL

CHAPTER XX. A STRANGE VISIT

CHAPTER XXI. A FOILED ATTEMPT

CHAPTER XXII. JOHN RECALLS AND REMEMBERS

CHAPTER XXIII. LETTER AND ANSWER

CHAPTER XXIV. HAND TO HAND

CHAPTER XXV. A VERY STRANGE THING

CHAPTER XXVI. THE EVIL DRAWS NIGHER

CHAPTER XXVII. AN ENCOUNTER

CHAPTER XXVIII. ANOTHER VISION

CHAPTER XXIX. MOTHER AND SON

CHAPTER XXX. ONCE MORE, AND YET AGAIN

CHAPTER XXXI. MY UNCLE COMES HOME

CHAPTER XXXII. TWICE TWO IS ONE

CHAPTER XXXIII. HALF ONE IS ONE

CHAPTER XXXIV. THE STORY OF MY TWIN UNCLES

CHAPTER XXXV. UNCLE EDMUND'S APPENDIX

CHAPTER XXXVI. THE END OF THE FIRST VOLUME




THE FLIGHT OF THE SHADOW.




CHAPTER I.


MRS. DAY BEGINS THE STORY.

I am old, else, I think, I should not have the courage to tell the story
I am going to tell. All those concerned in it about whose feelings I am
careful, are gone where, thank God, there are no secrets! If they know
what I am doing, I know they do not mind. If they were alive to read as I
record, they might perhaps now and again look a little paler and wish the
leaf turned, but to see the things set down would not make them unhappy:
they do not love secrecy. Half the misery in the world comes from trying
to look, instead of trying to be, what one is not. I would that not God
only but all good men and women might see me through and through. They
would not be pleased with everything they saw, but then neither am I, and
I would have no coals of fire in my soul's pockets! But my very nature
would shudder at the thought of letting one person that loved a secret
see into it. Such a one never sees things as they are - would not indeed
see what was there, but something shaped and coloured after his own
likeness. No one who loves and chooses a secret can be of the pure in
heart that shall see God.

Yet how shall I tell even who I am? Which of us is other than a secret to
all but God! Which of us can tell, with poorest approximation, what he or
she is! Not to touch the mystery of life - that one who is not myself has
made me able to say _I_, how little can any of us tell about even those
ancestors whose names we know, while yet the nature, and still more the
character, of hundreds of them, have shared in determining what _I_ means
every time one of us utters the word! For myself, I remember neither
father nor mother, nor one of their fathers or mothers: how little then
can I say as to what I am! But I will tell as much as most of my readers,
if ever I have any, will care to know.

I come of a long yeoman-line of the name of Whichcote. In Scotland the
Whichcotes would have been called _lairds_; in England they were not
called _squires_. Repeatedly had younger sons of it risen to rank and
honour, and in several generations would his property have entitled the
head of the family to rank as a squire, but at the time when I began to
be aware of existence, the family possessions had dwindled to one large
farm, on which I found myself. Naturally, while some of the family had
risen, others had sunk in the social scale; and of the latter was Miss
Martha Moon, far more to my life than can appear in my story. I should
imagine there are few families in England covering a larger range of
social difference than ours. But I begin to think the chief difficulty in
writing a book must be to keep out what does not belong to it.

I may mention, however, my conviction, that I owe many special delights
to the gradual development of my race in certain special relations to the
natural ways of the world. That I was myself brought up in such
relations, appears not enough to account for the intensity of my pleasure
in things belonging to simplest life - in everything of the open air, in
animals of all kinds, in the economy of field and meadow and moor. I can
no more understand my delight in the sweet breath of a cow, than I can
explain the process by which, that day in the garden - but I must not
forestall, and will say rather - than I can account for the tears which,
now I am an old woman, fill my eyes just as they used when I was a child,
at sight of the year's first primrose. A harebell, much as I have always
loved harebells, never moved me that way! Some will say the cause,
whatever it be, lies in my nature, not in my ancestry; that, anyhow, it
must have come first to some one - and why not to me? I answer, Everything
lies in everyone of us, but has to be brought to the surface. It grows a
little in one, more in that one's child, more in that child's child, and
so on and on - with curious breaks as of a river which every now and then
takes to an underground course. One thing I am sure of - that, however any
good thing came, I did not make it; I can only be glad and thankful that
in me it came to the surface, to tell me how beautiful must he be who
thought of it, and made it in me. Then surely one is nearer, if not to
God himself, yet to the things God loves, in the country than amid ugly
houses - things that could not have been invented by God, though he made
the man that made them. It is not the fashionable only that love the
town and not the country; the men and women who live in dirt and
squalor - their counterparts in this and worse things far more than they
think - are afraid of loneliness, and hate God's lovely dark.




CHAPTER II.


MISS MARTHA MOON.

Let me look back and see what first things I first remember!

All about my uncle first; but I keep him to the last. Next, all about
Rover, the dog - though for roving, I hardly remember him away from my
side! Alas, he did not live to come into the story, but I must mention
him here, for I shall not write another book, and, in the briefest
summary of my childhood, to make no allusion to him would be disloyalty.
I almost believe that at one period, had I been set to say who I was, I
should have included Rover as an essential part of myself. His tail was
my tail; his legs were my legs; his tongue was my tongue! - so much more
did I, as we gambolled together, seem conscious of his joy than of my
own! Surely, among other and greater mercies, I shall find him again! The
next person I see busy about the place, now here now there in the house,
and seldom outside it, is Miss Martha Moon. The house is large, built at
a time when the family was one of consequence, and there was always much
to be done in it. The largest room in it is now called the kitchen, but
was doubtless called the hall when first it was built. This was Miss
Martha Moon's headquarters.

She was my uncle's second cousin, and as he always called her Martha, so
did I, without rebuke: every one else about the place called her Miss
Martha.

Of much greater worth and much more genuine refinement than tens of
thousands the world calls ladies, she never claimed the distinction.
Indeed she strongly objected to it. If you had said or implied she was
a lady, she would have shrunk as from a covert reflection on the quality
of her work. Had she known certain of such as nowadays call themselves
lady-helps, I could have understood her objection. I think, however, it
came from a stern adherence to the factness - if I may coin the word - of
things. She never called a lie a fib.

When she was angry, she always held her tongue; she feared being unfair.
She had indeed a rare power of silence. To this day I do not _know_, but
am nevertheless sure that, by an instinct of understanding, she saw into
my uncle's trouble, and descried, more or less plainly, the secret of it,
while yet she never even alluded to the existence of such a trouble. She
had a regard for woman's dignity as profound as silent. She was not of
those that prate or rave about their rights, forget their duties, and
care only for what they count their victories.

She declared herself dead against marriage. One day, while yet hardly
more than a child, I said to her thoughtfully,

"I wonder why you hate gentlemen, Martha!"

"Hate 'em! What on earth makes you say such a wicked thing, Orbie?" she
answered. "Hate 'em, the poor dears! I love 'em! What did you ever see to
make you think I hated your uncle now?"

"Oh! of course! uncle!" I returned; for my uncle was all the world to me.
"Nobody could hate uncle!"

"She'd be a bad woman, anyhow, that did!" rejoined Martha. "But did
anybody ever hate the person that couldn't do without her, Orbie?"

My name - suggested by my uncle because my mother died at my birth - was a
curious one; I believe he made it himself. _Belorba_ it was, and it means
_Fair Orphan_.

"I don't know, Martha," I replied.

"Well, you watch and see!" she returned. "Do you think I would stay here
and work from morning to night if I hadn't some reason for it? - Oh, I
like work!" she went on; "I don't deny that. I should be miserable if I
didn't work. But I'm not bound to this sort of work. I have money of my
own, and I'm no beggar for house-room. But rather than leave your uncle,
poor man! I would do the work of a ploughman for him."

"Then why don't you marry him, Martha?" I said, with innocent
impertinence.

"Marry him! I wouldn't marry him for ten thousand pounds, child!"

"Why not, if you love him so much? I'm sure he wouldn't mind!"

"Marry him!" repeated Miss Martha, and stood looking at me as if here at
last was a creature she could _not_ understand; "marry the poor dear man,
and make him miserable! I could love any man better than that! Just you
open your eyes, my dear, and see what goes on about you. Do you see so
many men made happy by their wives? I don't say it's all the wives'
fault, poor things! But the fact's the same: there's the poor husbands
all the time trying hard to bear it! What with the babies, and the
headaches, and the rest of it, that's what it comes to - the husbands are
not happy! No, no! A woman can do better for a man than marry him!"

"But mayn't it be the husband's fault - sometimes, Martha?"

"It may; but what better is it for that? What better is the wife for
knowing it, or how much happier the husband for not knowing it? As soon
as you come to weighing who's in fault, and counting how much, it's all
up with the marriage. There's no more comfort in life for either of them!
Women are sent into the world to make men happy. I was sent to your
uncle, and I'm trying to do my duty. It's nothing to me what other women
think; I'm here to serve your uncle. What comes of me, I don't care, so
long as I do my work, and don't keep him waiting that made me for it. You
may think it a small thing to make a man happy! I don't. God thought him
worth making, and he wouldn't be if he was miserable. I've seen one woman
make ten men unhappy! I know my calling, Orbie. Nothing would make me
marry one of them, poor things!"

"But if they all said as you do, Martha?"

"No doubt the world would come to an end, but it would go out singing,
not crying. I don't see that would matter. There would be enough to make
each other happy in heaven, and the Lord could make more as they were
wanted."

"Uncle says it takes God a long time to make a man!" I ventured to
remark.

Miss Martha was silent for a moment. She did not see how my remark bore
on the matter in hand, but she had such respect for anything my uncle
said, that when she did not grasp it she held her peace.

"Anyhow there's no fear of it for the present!" she answered. "You heard
the screed of banns last Sunday!"

I thought you would have a better idea of Miss Martha Moon from hearing
her talk, than from any talk about her. To hear one talk is better than
to see one. But I would not have you think she often spoke at such
length. She was in truth a woman of few words, never troubled or
troubling with any verbal catarrh. Especially silent she was when any one
she loved was in distress. I have seen her stand moveless for moments,
with a look that was the incarnation of essential motherhood - as if her
eyes were swallowing up sorrow; as if her soul was ready to be the
sacrifice for sin. Then she would turn away with a droop of the eye-lids
that seemed to say she saw what it was, but saw also how little she could
do for it. Oh the depth of the love-trouble in those eyes of hers!

Martha never set herself to teach me anything, but I could not know
Martha without learning something of the genuine human heart. I gathered
from her by unconscious assimilation. Possibly, a spiritual action
analogous to exosmose and endosmose, takes place between certain souls.




CHAPTER III.


MY UNCLE.

Now I must tell you what my uncle was like.

The first thing that struck you about him would have been, how tall and
thin he was. The next thing would have been, how he stooped; and the
next, how sad he looked. It scarcely seemed that Martha Moon had been
able to do much for him. Yet doubtless she had done, and was doing, more
than either he or she knew. He had rather a small head on the top of his
long body; and when he stood straight up, which was not very often, it
seemed so far away, that some one said he took him for Zacchaeus looking
down from the sycomore. _I_ never thought of analyzing his appearance,
never thought of comparing him with any one else. To me he was the best
and most beautiful of men - the first man in all the world. Nor did I
change my mind about him ever - I only came to want another to think of
him as I did.

His features were in fine proportion, though perhaps too delicate.
Perhaps they were a little too small to be properly beautiful. When first
I saw a likeness of the poet Shelley, I called out "My uncle!" and
immediately began to see differences. He wore a small but long moustache,
brushed away from his mouth; and over it his eyes looked large. They were
of a clear gray, and very gentle. I know from the testimony of others,
that I was right in imagining him a really learned man. That small head
of his contained more and better than many a larger head of greater note.
He was constantly reading - that is, when not thinking, or giving me the
lessons which make me now thank him for half my conscious soul.

Reading or writing or thinking, he made me always welcome to share his
room with him; but he seldom took me out walking. He was by no means
regular in his habits - regarded neither times nor seasons - went and came
like a bird. His hour for going out was unknown to himself, was seldom
two days together the same. He would rise up suddenly, even in the middle
of a lesson - he always called it "a lesson together" - and without a word
walk from the room and the house. I had soon observed that in gloomy
weather he went out often, in the sunshine seldom.

The house had a large garden, of a very old-fashioned sort, such a place
for the charm of both glory and gloom as I have never seen elsewhere. I
have had other eyes opened within me to deeper beauties than I saw in
that garden then; my remembrance of it is none the less of an enchanted
ground. But my uncle never walked in it. When he walked, it was always
out on the moor he went, and what time he would return no one ever knew.
His meals were uninteresting to him - no concern to any one but Martha,
who never uttered a word of impatience, and seldom a word of anxiety. At
whatever hour of the day he went, it was almost always night when he came
home, often late night. In the house he much preferred his own room to
any other.

This room, not so large as the kitchen-hall, but quite as long, seems to
me, when I look back, my earliest surrounding. It was the centre from
which my roving fancies issued as from their source, and the end of their
journey to which as to their home they returned. It was a curious place.
Were you to see first the inside of the house and then the outside, you
would find yourself at a loss to conjecture where within it could be
situated such a room. It was not, however, contained in what, to a
cursory glance, passed for the habitable house, and a stranger would not
easily have found the entrance to it.

Both its nature and situation were in keeping with certain peculiarities
of my uncle's mental being. He was given to curious inquiries. He would
set out to solve now one now another historical point as odd as
uninteresting to any but a mind capable of starting such a question. To
determine it, he would search book after book, as if it were a live
thing, in whose memory must remain, darkly stored, thousands of facts,
requiring only to be recollected: amongst them might nestle the thing he
sought, and he would dig for it as in a mine that went branching through
the hardened dust of ages. I fancy he read any old book whatever of
English history with the haunting sense that next moment he might come
upon the trace of certain of his own ancestors of whom he specially
desired to enlarge his knowledge. Whether he started any new thing in
mathematics I cannot tell, but he would sit absorbed, every day and all
day long, for weeks, over his slate, suddenly throw it down, walk out for
the rest of the day, and leave his calculus, or whatever it was, for
months. He read Shakespeare as with a microscope, propounding and
answering the most curious little questions. It seemed to me sometimes, I
confess, that he missed a plain point from his eyes being so sharp that
they looked through it without seeing it, having focused themselves
beyond it.

A specimen of the kind of question he would ask and answer himself,
occurs to me as I write, for he put it to me once as we read together.

"Why," he said, "did Margaret, in _Much ado about Nothing_, try to
persuade Hero to wear her other rabato?"

And the answer was,

"Because she feared her mistress would find out that she had been wearing
it - namely, the night before, when she personated her."

And here I may put down a remark I heard him make in reference to a
theory which itself must seem nothing less than idiotic to any one who
knows Shakespeare as my uncle knew him. The remark was this - that whoever
sought to enhance the fame of lord St. Alban's - he was careful to use the
real title - by attributing to him the works of Shakespeare, must either
be a man of weak intellect, of great ignorance, or of low moral
perception; for he cast on the memory of a man already more to be pitied
than any, a weight of obloquy such as it were hard to believe anyone
capable of deserving. A being with Shakespeare's love of human nature,
and Bacon's insight into essential truth, guilty of the moral and social
atrocities into which his lordship's eagerness after money for scientific
research betrayed him, would be a monster as grotesque as abominable.

I record the remark the rather that it shows my uncle could look at
things in a large way as well as hunt with a knife-edge. At the same
time, devoutly as I honour him, I cannot but count him intended for
thinkings of larger scope than such as then seemed characteristic of him.
I imagine his early history had affected his faculties, and influenced
the mode of their working. How indeed could it have been otherwise!




CHAPTER IV.


MY UNCLE'S ROOM, AND MY UNCLE IN IT.

At right angles to the long, black and white house, stood a building
behind it, of possibly earlier date, but uncertain intent. It had been
used for many things before my uncle's time - once as part of a small
brewery. My uncle was positive that, whether built for the purpose or
not, it had been used as a chapel, and that the house was originally the
out-lying cell of some convent. The signs on which he founded this
conclusion, I was never able to appreciate: to me, as containing my
uncle's study, the wonder-house of my childhood, it was far more
interesting than any history could have made it. It had very thick walls,
two low stories, and a high roof. Entering it from the court behind the
house, every portion of it would seem to an ordinary beholder quite
accounted for; but it might have suggested itself to a more comprehending
observer, that a considerable space must lie between the roof and the low
ceiling of the first floor, which was taken up with the servants' rooms.
Of the ground floor, part was used as a dairy, part as a woodhouse, part
for certain vegetables, while part stored the turf dug for fuel from the
neighbouring moor.

Between this building and the house was a smaller and lower erection, a
mere out-house. It also was strongly built, however, and the roof, in
perfect condition, seemed newer than the walls: it had been raised and
strengthened when used by my uncle to contain a passage leading from the
house to the roof of the building just described, in which he was
fashioning for himself the retreat which he rightly called his study, for
few must be the rooms more continuously thought and read in during one
lifetime than this.

I have now to tell how it was reached from the house. You could hardly
have found the way to it, even had you set yourself seriously to the
task, without having in you a good share of the constructive faculty. The
whole was my uncle's contrivance, but might well have been supposed to
belong to the troubled times when a good hiding-place would have added to
the value of any home.

There was a large recess in the kitchen, of which the hearth, raised a
foot or so above the flagged floor, had filled the whole - a huge chimney
in fact, built out from the wall. At some later time an oblong space had
been cut out of the hearth to a level with the floor, and in it an iron
grate constructed for the more convenient burning of coal. Hence the
remnant of the raised hearth looked like wide hobs to the grate. The
recess as a chimney-corner was thereby spoiled, for coal makes a very
different kind of smoke from the aromatic product of wood or peat.

Right and left within the recess, were two common, unpainted doors, with
latches. If you opened either, you found an ordinary shallow cupboard,
that on the right filled with shelves and crockery, that on the left with
brooms and other household implements.

But if, in the frame of the door to the left, you pressed what looked
like the head of a large nail, not its door only but the whole cupboard
turned inward on unseen hinges, and revealed an ascending stair, which
was the approach to my uncle's room. At the head of the stair you went
through the wall of the house to the passage under the roof of the
out-house, at the end of which a few more steps led up to the door of the
study. By that door you entered the roof of the more ancient building.
Lighted almost entirely from above, there was no indication outside of
the existence of this floor, except one tiny window, with vaguely pointed
arch, almost in the very top of the gable. Here lay my nest; this was the
bower of my bliss.

Its walls rose but about three feet from the floor ere the slope of the
roof began, so that there was a considerable portion of the room in which
my tall uncle could not stand upright. There was width enough
notwithstanding, in which four as tall as he might have walked abreast up
and down a length of at least five and thirty feet.

Not merely the low walls, but the slopes of the roof were filled with
books as high as the narrow level portion of the ceiling. On the slopes
the bookshelves had of course to be peculiar. My uncle had contrived, and
partly himself made them, with the assistance of a carpenter he had known
all his life. They were individually fixed to the rafters, each
projecting over that beneath it. To get at the highest, he had to stand
on a few steps; to reach the lowest, he had to stoop at a right angle.
The place was almost a tunnel of books.

By setting a chair on an ancient chest that stood against the gable, and
a footstool on the chair, I could mount high enough to get into the deep
embrasure of the little window, whence alone to gain a glimpse of the


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