George MacDonald.

[Works] (Volume 3) online

. (page 22 of 35)
Online LibraryGeorge MacDonald[Works] (Volume 3) → online text (page 22 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

marvels of architecture; ever disappointed and ever
dissatisned, because I knew that in one room some-
where in the forgotten mysteries of the pile sat Ethelwyn
reading, never lifting those sea-blue eyes of hers from
the great volume on her knee, reading every word,
slowly turning leaf after leaf; knew that she would sit
there reading, till, one by one, every leaf in the huge
volume was turned, and she came to the last and read it
from top to bottom down to the finis and the urn with
a weeping willow over it ; when she would close the book
with a sigh, lay it down on the floor, rise and walk
slowly away, and leave the glorious ruin dead to me as
it had so long been to every one else ; knew that if I
did not find her before that terrible last page was read,

JUDY'S Nwa. 353

I should never find her at all ; but have to go wander-
ing alone all my life through those dreary galleries and
corridors, with one hope only left that I might yet be
fore I died find the " palace-chamber far apart," and see
the read and forsaken volume lying on the Hoor where
she had left it, and the chair beside it upon which she
had sat so long waiting for some one in vain.

And perhaps to words spoken under these impressions
may partly be attributed the fact, which I knew nothing
of till long afterwards, that the people of the village
began to couple my name with that of Miss Oldcastle.

When all this vanished from me in the returning wave
of health that spread through my weary brain, I was yet
left anxious and thoughtful. There was no one Iron:
whom I could ask any information about the family at
the Hall, so that I was just driven to the best thing tc
try to cast my care upon Him who cared for my care.
How often do we look upon God as our last and feeblest
resource! We go to Him because we have nowhere
else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life
have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired
haven ; that we have been compelled, as to the last re-
maining, so to the best, the only, the central help, the
causing cause of all the helps to which we had turned
aside as nearer ami better.

One day when, having considerably recovered from
my second attack, I was si: i ing reading in my study,
who should be announced but my friend Judy !

" Oh, dear Mr Walton, I am so sorry you have been
so ill!" exclaimed the impulsive girl, taking my hand in


both of hers, and sitting down beside me. " I haven't
had a chance of coming to see you before ; though we 've
always managed I mean auntie and I to hear about
you. I would have come to nurse you, but it was no
flse thinking of it."

I smiled as I thanked her.

" Ah ! you think because I 'm such a torn-boy, that I
couldn't nurse you. I only wish I had had a chance of
letting you see. I am so sorry for you ! "

" But I 'm nearly well now, Judy, and I have been
taken good care of."

" By that frumpy old thing, Mrs Pearson, and "

" Mrs Pearson is a very kind woman, and an excellent
nurse," I said ; but she would not heed me.

" And that awful old witch, Mother Goose. She was
enough to give you bad dreams all night she sat by you."

" I didn't dream about Mother Goose, as you call her,
[udy, I assure you. But now I want to hear how every-
body is at the Hall."

" What, grannie, and the white wolf, and all?"

" As many as you please to tell me about."

" Well, grannie is gracious to everybody but auntie."

" Why isn't she gracious to auntie ? "

" I don't know. I only guess."

" Is your visitor gone ? "

" Yes, long ago. Do you know, I think grannie wants
auntie to marry him, and auntie doesn't quite like it?
But he 's very nice. He 's so funny ! He '11 be back
again soon, I daresay. I don't quite like him not so
well as you by a whole half, Mr Walton. I wish you


would marry auntie ; but that would never do. It would
drive grannie out of her wits."

To stop the strange girl, and hide some confusion, I
said :

" Now tell me about the rest of them."

" Sarah comes next. She 's as white and as wolfy as
ever. Mr Walton, I hate that woman. She walks like
a cat. I am sure she is bad."

" Did you ever think, Judy, what an awful thing it is
to be bad ? If you did, I think you would be so sorry
for her, you could not hate her."

At the same time, knowing what I knew now, and
remembering that impressions can date from farther back
than the memory can reach, I was not surprised to hear
that Judy hated Sarah, though I could not believe that
in such a child the hatred was of the most deadly de-

"I am afraid I must go on hating in the meantime,"
said Judy. " I wish some one would marry auntie, and
turn Sarah away. But that couldn't be, so long as
grannie lives."

" How is Mr Stoddart?"

" There now ! That 's one of the things auntie said I
was to be sure to tell you."

" Then your aunt knew you were coming to see
me ?"

"Oh, yes, I told her. Not grannie, you know. You
mustn't let it out"

" I shall be careful. How is Mr Stoddart, then?"

44 Not well at all. He was taken ill before you, and


has been in bed and by the fireside ever since. Auntie
doesn't know what to do with him, he is so out of

" If to-morrow is fine, I shall go and see him."

" Thank you. I believe that 's just what auntie
wanted. He won't like it at first, I daresay. But he '11
come to, and you '11 do him good. You do everybody
good you come near."

" I wish that were true, Judy. I fear it is not. What
good did I ever do you, Judy 1 "

" Do me ! " she exclaimed, apparently half angry at
the question. " Don't you know I have been an altered
character ever since I knew you 1 "

And here the odd creature laughed, leaving me in
absolute ignorance of how to interpret her. But pre-
sently her eyes grew clearer, and I could see the slow
film of a tear gathering.

" Mr Walton," she said, " I have been trying not to be
selfish. You have done me that much good."

" I am very glad, Judy. Don't forget who can do you
all good. There is One who can not only show you
what is right, but can make you able to do and be what
is right. You don't know how much you have got to
learn yet, Judy ; but there is that one Teacher eve,
ready to teach if you will only ask Him."

Judy did not answer, but sat looking fixedly at the
carpet. She was thinking, though, I saw.

" Who has played the organ, Judy, since your uncle
was taken ill?" I asked, at length.

" Why, auntie, to be sure. Didn't you hear?''

JDDY'8 NKWS. 357

" No," I answered, turning almost sick at the idea of
having been away from church for so many Sundays
while she was giving voice and expression to the dear
asthmatic old pipes. And I did feel very ready to mur-
mur, like a spoilt child that had not had his way. Think
of her there, and me here !

" Then," I said to myself at last, " it must have been
she that played / know that my Redeemer /ireth, that last
time I was in church ! And instead of thanking God
for that, here I am murmuring that He did not give me
more ! And this child has just been telling me that I
have taught her to try not to be selfish. Certainly I
should be ashamed of myself."

" When was your uncle taken ill 1 "

" I don't exactly remember. But you will come and
see him to-morrow 1 And then we shall see you too.
For we are always out and in of his room just now."

" I will come ii Dr Duncan will let me. Perhaps he
will take me in his carriage."

" No, no. Don't you come with him. Uncle can't
bear doctors. He never was ill in his life before, and
he behaves to Dr Duncan just as if he had made him ill.
I wish I could send the carriage for you. But I can't,
you know."

" Never mind, Judy. I shall manage somehow.
What is the name of the gentleman who was staying
with you 1"

"Don't you know? Captain George Everard. He
would change his name to Oldcastle, you know."

What a foolish pain, like a spear-thrust, they sent


through me those words spoken in such a taken-for-
granted way !

" He 's a relation on grannie's side mostly, I believe.
But I never could understand the explanation. What
makes it harder is, that all the husbands and wives in
our family, for a hundred and fifty years, have been more
or less of cousins, or half-cousins, or second or third
cousins. Captain Everard has what grandmamma calls
a neat little property of his own from his mother, some-
where in Noithumberland; for he is only a third son,
one of a class grannie does not in general feel very
friendly to, I assure you, Mr Walton. But his second
brother is dead, and the eldest something the worse
for the wear, as grannie says ; so that the captain comes
just within sight of the coronet of an old uncle who
ought to have been dead long ago. Just the match for
auntie ! "

" But you say auntie doesn't like him."

" Oh ! but you know that doesn't matter," returned
Judy, with bitterness. " What will grannie care for
that? It 's nothing to anybody but auntie, and she must
get used to it. Nobody makes anything of her."

It was only after she had gone that I thought how
astounding it would have been lo me to hear a girl of
her age show such an acquaintance with worldliness
and scheming, had I not been personally so much con-
cerned about one of the objects of her remarks. She
certainly was a strange girl. But strange as she was it
was a satisfaction to think that the aunt had such a
friend and ally in her wild niece. Evidently she had


inherited her father's fearlessness ; and if only it should
turn out that she had likewise inherited her mother's
firmness, she might render the best possible service to
her aunt against the oppression of her wilful mother.

" How were you able to get here to-day ? " I asked, as
she rose to go.

"Grannie is in Ix>ndon, and the wolf is with her.
Auntie wouldn't leave uncle."

" They have been a good deal in London of late, have
they not ? "

" Yes. They say it's about money of auntie's. But
I don't understand. / think it's that grannie wants to
make the captain marry her; for they sometimes see
him when they go to London."



|HE following day being very fine, I walked
to Oldcastle Hall; but I remember well
how much slower I was forced to walk than
I was willing. I found to my relief that
Mrs Oldcastle had not yet returned. I was shown at
once to Mr Stoddart's library. There I found the two
ladies in attendance upon him. He was seated by a
splendid fire, for the autumn days were now chilly on
tne shady side, in the most luxurious of easy chairs, with
his furred feet buried in the long hair of the hearth-rug.
He looked worn and peevish. All the placidity of his
countenance had vanished. The smooth expanse of
his forehead was drawn into fifty wrinkles, like a sea
over which the fretting wind has been blowing all night.
Nor was it only suffering that his face expressed. He
looked like a man who strongly suspected that he was


After salutation,

" You are well off, Mr Stoddart," I said, " to have
two such nurses."

" They are very kind," sighed the patient.

" You would recommend Mrs Pearson and Mother
Goose instead, would you not, Mr Walton ?" said Judy,
her gray eyes sparkling with fun.

"Judy, be quiet," said the invalid, languidly and yet

Judy reddened and was silent.

" I am sorry to find you so unwell," I said.

" Yes ; I am very ill," he returned.

Aunt and niece rose and left the room quietly.

" Do you suffer much, Mr Stoddart?"

" Much weariness, worse than pain. I could welcome

" I do not think, from what I)r Duncan says of you,
that there is reason to apprehend more than a lingering
illness," I said to try him, I confess.

" I hope not indeed," he exclaimed angrily, sitting
up in his chair. " What right has Dr Duncan to talk
of me so ?"

" To a friend, you know," I returned, apologetically,
" who is much interested in your welfare."

" Yes, of course. So is the doctor. A sick man
belongs to you both by prescription."

" For my part I would rather talk about religion to
a whole man than a sick man. A sick man is not a
wJwlc man. He is but part of a man, as it were, for
the time, and it is not so easy to tell what he can take."


"Thank you. I am obliged to you for my new
position in the social scale. Or the tailor species, I

I could not help wishing he were as far up as anr
man that does such needful honest work.

" My dear sir, I beg your pardon. I meant only a
glance at the peculiar relation of the words whole and

" I do not find etymology interesting at present."

" Not seated in such a library as this ? "

" No ; I am ill."

Satisfied that, ill as he was, he might be better if he
would, I resolved to make another trial.

" Do you remember how Ligarius, in Julius C&sar,
discards his sickness ?

" ' I am not sick, if Brutus have in hand
Any exploit worthy the name of honour.' "

" I want to be well because I don't like to be ilL
But what there is in this foggy, swampy world worth
being well for, I'm sure I haven't found out yet."

" If you have not, it must be because you have never
tried to find out But I'm not going to attack you
when you are not able to defend yourself. We shall
find a better time for that But can't I do something
for youl Would you like me to read to you for half
an hour?"

" No, thank you. The girls tire me out with reading
to me. I hate the very sound of their voices."

" I have got to-day's Times in my pocket."

" I 've heard all the news already."


M Then I think I shall only bore you if I stay."

He made me no answer. I rose. He just let me
take his hand, and returned my good morning as if
there was nothing good in the world, least of all this
same morning.

I found the ladies in the outer room. Judy was on
her knees on the floor occupied with a long row of
books. How the books had got there I wondered ; but
soon learned the secret which I had in vain asked of
the butler on my first visit namely, how Mr Stoddarl
reached the volumes arranged immediately under the
ceiling, in shelves, as my reader may remember, that
looked like beams radiating from the centre. For Judy
rose from the floor, and proceeded to put in motion a
mechanical arrangement concealed in one of the divi-
sions of the book-shelves along the wall ; and I now
saw that there were strong cords reaching from the
ceiling, and attached to the shelf or rather long box
sideways open which contained the books.

" Do take care, Judy," said Ethel wyn. " You know
it is very venturous of you to let that shelf down, when
uncle is as jealous of his books as a hen of her chickens.
I oughtn't to have let you touch the cords."

"You couldn't help it, auntie, dear; for I had the
shelf half-way clown before you saw me," returned Judy,
proceeding to raise the books to their usual position
under the ceiling.

I'ut in another moment, either from Judy's awkward-
ness, or from the gradual decay and final fracture of
some cord, down came the whole shelf with a thunder-


ing noise, and the books were scattered hither and thither
in confusion about the floor. Ethelwyn was gazing in
dismay, and Judy had built up her face into a defiant
look, when the door of the inner room opened and Mr
Stoddart appeared. His brow was already flushed ; but
when he saw the condition of his idols, (for the lust of
the eye had its full share in his regard for his books,) he
broke out in a passion to which he could not have given
way but for the weak state of his health.

" How dare you?" he said, with terrible emphasis on
the word dare. " Judy, I beg you will not again show
yourself in my apartment till I send for you."

" And then," said Judy, leaving the room, " I am not
in the least likely to be otherwise engaged."

" I am very sorry, uncle," began Miss Oldcastle.

But Mr Stoddart had already retreated and banged
the door behind him. So Miss Oldcastle and I were
left standing together amid the ruins.

She glanced at me with a distressed look. I smiled.
She smiled in return.

" I assure you," she said, " uncle is not a bit like

" And I fear in trying to rouse him, I have done him
no good, only made him more irritable," I said. " But
he will be sorry when he comes to himself, and so we
must take the reversion of his repentance now, and think
nothing more of the matter than if he had already said
he was sorry. Besides, when books are in the case, I,
for one, must not be too hard upon my unfortunate


" Thank you, Mr Walton. I am so much obliged to
you for taking my uncle's part. He has been very good
to me ; and that dear Judy is provoking sometimes. I
am afraid I help to spoil her; but you would hardly
believe how good she really is, and what a comfort she
is to me with all her waywardness."

" I think I understand Judy," I replied ; " and I shall
be more mistaken than I am willing to confess I have
ever been before, if she does not turn out a very fine
woman. The marvel to me is that with all the various
influences amongst which she is placed here, she is not
really, not seriously, spoiled after all. I assure you I
have the greatest regard for, as well as confidence in,
my friend Judy."

Ethel wyn Miss Oldcastlc, I should say gave me
such a pleased look that I was well recompensed it
justice should ever talk of recompense for my defence
of her niece.

" Will you come with me?" she said ; " for I fear our
talk may continue to annoy Mr Stoddart. His hearing
is acute at all times, and has been excessively so since
his illness."

" I am at your service," I returned, and followed her
from the room.

" Are you still as fond of the old quarry as you useil
to be, Miss Oldcastle?' 1 I said, as we rauyht a glimpsj
of it from the window of a long passage we were going

" I think I am. I go there most days. I have not
been to day, though. Would you like to go down]"


" Very much," I said.

u Ah ! I forgot, though. You must not go ; it is not
a fit place for an invalid."

" I cannot call myself an invalid now."

" Your face, I am sorry to say, contradicts your

And she looked so kindly at me, that I almost broke
out into thanks for the mere look.

" And indeed," she went on, " it is too damp down
there, not to speak of the stairs."

By this time we had reached the little room in which
I was received the first time I visited the Hall. There
we found Judy.

" If you are not too tired already, I should like to
show you my little study. It has, I think, a better view
than any other room in the house," said Miss Oldcastle.

" I shall be delighted," I replied.

fc Come, Judy," said her aunt.

" You don't want me, I am sure, auntie."

" I do, Judy, really. You mustn't be cross to us be-
cause uncle has been cross to you. Uncle is not well,
you know, and isn't a bit like himself; and you know
you should not have meddled with his machinery."

And Miss Oldcastle put her arm round Judy, and
kissed her. Whereupon Judy jumped from her seat,
threw her book down, and ran to one of the several
doors that opened from the room. This disclosed a
little staircase, almost like a ladder, only that it wound
about, up which we climbed, and reached a charm-
ing little room, whose window looked down upon the


Bishop's Basin, glimmering slaty through the tops of the
trees between. It was panelled in small panels of dark
oak, like the room below, but with more of carving.
Consequently it was sombre, and its sombreness was
unrelieved by any mirror. I gazed about me with a
kind of awe. I would gladly have carried away the re-
membrance of everything and its shadow. Just opposite
the window was a small space of brightness formed by
the backs of nicely-bound books. Seeing that these
attracted my eye

" Those are almost all gifts from my uncle," said Miss
Oldcastle. " He is really very kind, and you will not
think of him as you have seen him to-day 1"

" Indeed I will not," I replied.

My eye fell upon a small pianoforte.

" Do sit down," said Miss Oldcastle. " You have
been very ill, and I could do nothing for you who have
been so kind to me."

She spoke as if she had wanted to say this.

" I only wish I had a chance of doing anything for
you," I said, as I took a chair in the window. " But if
I had done all I ever could hope to do, you have repaid
me long ago, I think."

" How? I do not know what you mean, Mr Walton.
I have never done you the least service."

"Tell me first, did you play the organ in church that
afternoon when after before I was taken ill I mean
the same day you had a friend with you in the pew in
the morning ? "

I daresay my voice was as irregular as my construe-


tion. I ventured just one glance. Her face was flushed.
But she answered me at once.

I did."

" Then I am in your debt more than you know or I
can tell you."

" Why, if that is all, I have played the organ every
Sunday since uncle was taken ill," she said, smiling.

" I know that now. And I am very glad I did not
know it till I was better able to bear the disappoint-
ment. But it is only for what I heard that I mean now
to acknowledge my obligation. Tell me, Miss Oldcastle,
what is the most precious gift one person can give
another ] "

She hesitated ; and I, fearing to embarrass her, an-
swered for her.

" It must be something imperishable, something
which in its own nature is. If instead of a gem, or even
of a flower, we could cast the gift of a lovely thought
into the heart of a friend, that would be giving, as the
angeis, 1 suppose, must give. But you did more and
better for me than that. I had been troubled all the
morning; and you made me know that my Redeemer
liveth. I did not know you were playing, mind, though
1 felt a difference. You gave me more trust in God ;
and what other gift so great could one give 1 I think
that last impression, just as I was taken ill, must have
helped me through my illness. Often when I was most
oppressed, ' I know thai my Redeemer liveth' would rise
up in the troubled air of my mind, and sung by a voice


which, though I never heard you sing, I never questioned
to be yours."

She turned her face towards me : those sea-blue eyes
were full of tears,

" I was troubled myself," she said, with a faltering
voice, " when I sang I mean played that. I am so
glad it did somebody good ! I fear it did not do me
much. I will sing it to you now, if you like."

And she rose to get the music. ]>ut that instant
Judy, who, I then found, had left the room, bounded
into it, with the exclamation,

" Auntie, auntie ! here 's grannie ! "

Miss Oldcastle turned pale. I confess I felt embar-
rassed, as if I had been caught in something underhand.

"Is she come in?" asked Miss Oldcastle, trying to
speak with indifference.

" She is just at the door, must be getting out of the
fly now. What shall we do 1 "

" What do you mean, Judy?" said her aunt.

" Well you know, auntie, as well as I do, that grannie
will look as black as a thunder-cloud to find Mr Walton
here; and if she doesn't speak as loud, it will only be
because she can't. / don't care for myself, but you
know on whose head the storm will fall. Do. dear Mr
Walton, come down the back-stair. Then she won't be
a bit the wiser. I '11 manage it all.''

Here was a dilemma for me ; either to bring sufiering
on her. to save whom I would have borne any pain, or
to creep out of the house as if I were and ought to be


ashamed of myself. I believe that had I been in any
other relation to my fellows, I would have resolved at
once to lay myself open to the peculiarly unpleasant re-
proach of sneaking out of the house, rather than that
she should innocently suffer for my being innocently
there. But I was a clergyman ; and I felt, more than I
had ever felt before, that therefore I could not risk even
the appearance of what was mean. Miss Oldcastle,
however, did not leave it to me to settle the matter. All
that I have just written had but flashed through my
mind when she said :

"Judy, for shame to propose such a thing to Mr
Walton ! I am very sorry that he may chance to have
an unpleasant meeting with mamma ; but we can't help
it. Come, Judy, we will show Mr Walton out together."

" It wasn't for Mr Walton's sake," returned Judy,

Online LibraryGeorge MacDonald[Works] (Volume 3) → online text (page 22 of 35)