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George MacDonald.

What's Mine's Mine — Volume 2 online

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and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou
dash thy foot against a stone." Were not these two men God's own
angels!

They scarcely spoke, except when they stopped to take breath, but
went on and on with a steady, rhythmic, silent trudge. Up and down
the rough hill, and upon the hardly less rough hill-road, they had
enough ado to heed their steps. Now and then they would let her walk
a little way, but not far. She was neither so strong nor so heavy as
a fat deer, they said.

They were yet high among the hills, when the pale, withered, waste
shred of the old moon rose above the upheaved boat-like back of one
of the battlements of the horizon-rampart. With disconsolate face,
now lost, now found again, always reappearing where Mercy had not
been looking for her, she accompanied them the rest of their
journey, and the witch-like creature brought out the whole character
of the night. Booked in her wonderful swing, Mercy was not always
quite sure that she was not dreaming the strangest, pleasantest
dream. Were they not fittest for a dream, this star and moon beset
night-this wind that now and then blew so eerie and wild, yet did
not wake her-this gulf around, above, and beneath her, through which
she was borne as if she had indeed died, and angels were carrying
her through wastes of air to some unknown region afar? Except when
she brushed the heather, she forgot that the earth was near her. The
arms around her were the arms of men and not angels, but how far
above this lower world dwelt the souls that moved those strong
limbs! What a small creature she was beside them! how unworthy of
the labour of their deliverance! Her awe of the one kept growing;
the other she could trust with heart as well as brain; she could
never be afraid of him! To the chief she turned to shadow her from
Ian.

When they came to the foot of the path leading up to Mistress
Conal's cottage, there, although it was dark night, sat the old
woman on a stone.

"It's a sorrow you are carrying home with you, chief!" she said in
Gaelic. "As well have saved a drowning man!"

She did not rise or move, but spoke like one talking by the
fireside.

"The drowning man has to be saved, mother!" answered the chief, also
in Gaelic; "and the sorrow in your way has to be taken with you. It
won't let you pass!"

"True, my son!" said the woman; "but it makes the heart sore that
sees it!"

"Thank you for the warning then, but welcome the sorrow!" he
returned. "Good night."

"Good night, chiefs sons both!" she replied. "You're your father's
anyway! Did he not one night bring home a frozen fox in his arms, to
warm him by his fire! But when he had warmed him - he turned him
out!"

It was quite clear when last they looked at the sky, but the moment
they left her, it began to rain heavily.

So fast did it rain, that the men, fearing for Mercy, turned off the
road, and went down a steep descent, to make straight across their
own fields for the cottage; and just as they reached the bottom of
the descent, although they had come all the rough way hitherto
without slipping or stumbling - once, the chief fell. He rose in
consternation; but finding that Mercy, upheld by Ian, had simply
dropped on her feet, and taken no hurt, relieved himself by
unsparing abuse of his clumsiness. Mercy laughed merrily, resumed her
place in the plaid, and closed her eyes. She never saw where they
were going, for she opened them again only when they stopped a
little as they turned into the fir-clump before the door.

"Where are we?" she asked; but for answer they carried her straight
into the house.

"We have brought you to our mother instead of yours," said Alister.
"To get wet would have been the last straw on the back of such a
day. We will let them know at once that you are safe."

Lady Macruadh, as the highlanders generally called her, made haste
to receive the poor girl with that sympathetic pity which, of all
good plants, flourishes most in the Celtic heart. Mercy's mother had
come to her in consternation at her absence, and the only comfort
she could give her was the suggestion that she had fallen in with
her sons. She gave her a warm bath,-put her to bed, and then made
her eat, so preparing her for a healthful sleep. And she did
sleep, but dreamed of darkness and snow and leopards.

As men were out searching in all directions, Alister, while Ian
went to the New House, lighted a beacon on the top of the old castle
to bring them back. By the time Ian had persuaded Mrs. Palmer to
leave Mercy in his mother's care for the night, it was blazing
beautifully.

In the morning it was found that Mercy had a bad cold, and could not
be moved. But the cottage, small as it was, had more than one
guest-chamber, and Mrs. Macruadh was delighted to have her to
nurse.

END OF VOL. II.












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Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldWhat's Mine's Mine — Volume 2 → online text (page 12 of 12)