George MacDonald.

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For his sake I sinned, and he threw me from him."

" You gave him what was not yours to give. What
right had you to cast your pearl before a swine ? But
dare you say it was all for his sake you did it? Was it
all self-denial ? Was there no self-indulgence ? "

She made a broken gesture of lifting her hands to her
head, let them drop by her side, and said nothing.

" You knew you were doing wrong. You felt it even
more than he did. For God made you with a more
delicate sense of purity, with a shrinking from the
temptation, with a womanly foreboding of disgrace, to
help you to hold the cup of your honour steady, which
yet you dropped on the ground. Do not seek refuge
in the cant about a woman's weakness. The strength
of the woman is as needful to her womanhood as the


strength of the man is to his manhood ; and a woman
is just as strong as she will be. And now, instead of
humbling yourself before your Father in heaven, whom
you have wronged more even than your father on earth,
you rage over your injuries and cherish hatred against
him who wronged you. But I will go yet further, and
show you, in God's name, that you wronged your seducer.
For you were his keeper, as he was yours. What if he
had found a noble-hearted girl who also trusted him
entirely just until she knew she ought not to listen to
him a moment longer? who, when his love showed itself
less than human, caring but for itself, rose in the royalty
of her maidenhood, and looked him in the face ? Would
he not have been ashamed before her, and so before
himself, seeing in the glass of her dignity his own con-
temptibleness ? But instead of such a woman he found
you, who let him do as he would. No redemption for
him in you. And now he walks the earth the worse for
you, defiled by your spoil, glorying in his poor victory
over you, despising all women for your sake, unrepentant
and proud, ruining others the easier that he has already
ruined you."

" He does ! he does ! " she shrieked ; " but I will have
my revenge. I can and I will."

And, darting past me, she rushed out into the storm.
I followed, and could just see that she took the way to
the village. Her dim shape went down the wind before
me into the darkness. I followed in the same direction,
fast and faster, for the wind was behind me, and a vague
fear which ever grew in my heart urged me to overtake


her. What had I done? To what might I not have
driven her ? And although all I had said was true, and
I had spoken from motives which, as far as I knew my
own heart, I could not condemn, yet, as I sped after
her, there came a reaction of feeling from the severity
with which I had displayed her own case against her.
" Ah ! poor sister," I thought, " was it for me thus to
reproach thee who had suffered already so fiercely 1 If
the Spirit speaking in thy heart could not win thee, how
should my words of hard accusation, true though they
were, every one of them, rouse in thee anything but the
wrath that springs from shame ? Should I not have tried
again, and yet again, to waken thy love; and then a
sweet and healing shame, like that of her who bathed
the Master's feet with her tears, would have bred fresh
love, and no wrath."

But again I answered for myself, that my heart had
not been the less tender towards her that I had tried to
humble her, for it was that she might slip from under
the net of her pride. Even when my tongue spoke the
hardest things I could find, my heart was yearning over
her. If I could but make her feel that she too had been
wrong, would not the sense of common wrong between
them help her to forgive 1 And with the first motion of
willing pardon, would not a spring of tenderness, grief,
and hope, burst from her poor old dried-up heart, and
make it young and fresh once more ! Thus I reasoned
with myself as I followed her back through the darkness.

The wind fell a little as we came near the village, and
the rain began to come down in torrents. There must


have "been a moon somewhere behind the clouds, for
the darkness became less dense, and I began to fancy I
could again see the dim shape which had rushed from
me. I increased my speed, and became certain of it
Suddenly, her strength giving way, or her foot stumbling
over something in the road, she fell to the earth with a

I was beside her in a moment. She was insensible.
I did what I could for her, and in a few minutes she
began to come to herself.

" Where am I ? Who is it 1 " she asked, listlessly.

When she found who I was, she made a great effort to
rise, and succeeded.

" You must take my arm," I said, " and I will help
you to the vicarage."

" I will go home," she answered.

" Lean on me now, at least ; for you must get some-

" What does it matter 1 " she said, in such a tone of
despair, that it went to my very heart.

A wild half-cry, half-sob followed, and then she took
my arm, and said nothing more. Nor did I trouble her
with any words, except, when we reached the gate, to
beg her to come into the vicarage instead of going
home. But she would not listen to me, and so I took
her home.

She pulled the key of the shop from her pocket Her
hand trembled so that I took it from her, and opened
the door. A candle with a long snuff was flickering on
the counter ; and stretched out on the counter, with his


head about a foot from the candle, lay little Gerard, fast

" Ah, little darling ! " I said in my heart, " this is not
much like painting the sky yet But who knows?" And
as I uttered the commonplace question in my mind, in
my mind it was suddenly changed into the half of a great
dim prophecy by the answer which arose to it there, for
the answer was " God."

I lifted the little fellow in my arms. He had fallen
asleep weeping, and his face was dirty, and streaked
with the channels of his tears. Catherine had snuffed
the candle, and now stood with it in her hand, waiting
for me to go. But, without heeding her, I bore my
child to the door that led to their dwelling. I had
never been up those stairs before, and therefore knew
nothing of the way. But without offering any opposi-
tion, his mother followed, and lighted me. What a sad
face of suffering and strife it was upon which that dim
light fell ! She set the candle down upon the table of a
small room at the top of the stairs, ^hich might have
been comfortable enough but that it was neglected and
disordered ; and now I saw that she did not even have
her child to sleep with her, for his crib stood in a corner
of this their sitting-room.

I sat down on a haircloth couch, and proceeded to
undress little Gerard, trying as much as I could not to
wake him. In this I was almost successful. Catherine
stood staring at me without saying a word. She looked
dazed, perhaps from the effects of her fall. But she
brought me his nightgown notwithstanding. Just as I


had finished putting it on, and was rising to lay him in
his crib, he opened his eyes, and looked at me ; then
gave a hurried look round, as if for his mother; then
threw his arms about my neck and kissed me. I laid
him down and the same moment he was fast asleep. In
the morning it would not be even a dream to him.

" Now," I thought, " you are safe for the night, poor
fatherless child. Even your mother's hardness will not
make you sad now. Perhaps the heavenly Father will
send you loving dreams."

I turned to Catherine, and bade her good-night. She
just put her hand in mine ; but, instead of returning my
leave-taking, said :

" Do not fancy you will get the better of me, Mr
Walton, by being kind to that boy. 1 will have my
revenge, and I know how. I am only waiting my time.
When he is just going to drink, I will dash it from his
hand. I will. At the altar I will."

Her eyes were flashing almost with madness, and she
made fierce gestures with her arm. I saw that argument
was useless.

" You loved him once, Catherine," I said. " Love
him again. Love him better. Forgive him. Revenge
is far worse than anything you have done yet."

" What do I care? Why should I care I"

And she laughed terribly.

I made haste to leave the room and the house ; but I
lingered for nearly an hour about the place before I
could make up my mind to go home, bo much was I
afraid lest she should do something altogether insane.


But at length 1 saw the candle appear in the shop, which
was some relief to my anxiety ; and reflecting that her
one consuming thought of revenge was some security for
her conduct otherwise, I went home.

That night my own troubles seemed small to me, and
I did not brood over them at all. My mind was filled
with the idea of the sad misery which, rather than in
v/hich, that poor woman was ; and I prayed for her as
for a desolate human world whose sun had deserted the
heavens, whose fair fields, rivers, and groves were har-
dening into the frost of death, and all their germs of
hope becoming but portions of the lifeless mass. " If I
am sorrowful," I said, " God lives none the less. And
His will is better than mine, yea, is my hidden and per
fected will. In Him is my life. His will be done.
What, then, is my trouble compared to hers 1 ? I will
not sink into it and be selfish."

In the morning my first business was to inquire after
her. I found her in the shop, looking very ill, and
obstinately reserved. Gerard sat in a corner, looking as
far from happy as a child of his years could look. As I
left the shop he crept out with me.

" Gerard, come back," cried his mother.

" I will not take him away," I said.

The boy looked up in my face, as if he wanted to
whisper to me, and I stooped to listen.

" I dreamed last night," said the boy, " that a big
angel with white wings came and took me out of my
bed, and carried me high, high up so high that I could
not dream any more,"


" We shall be carried up so high one day, Gerard, my
boy, that we shall not want to dream any more. For
we shall be carried up to God himself. Now go back to
your mother."

He obeyed at once, and I went on through the village.

2 r



WANTED just to pass the gate, and look up
the road towards Oldcastle Hall. I thought
to see nothing but the empty road between
the leafless trees, lying there like a dead
stream that would not bear me on to the " sunny plea-
sure-dome with caves of ice " that lay beyond. But just
as I reached the gate, Miss Oldcastle came out of the
lodge, where I learned afterwards the woman that kept
the gate was ill.

When she saw me she stopped, and I entered hur-
riedly, and addressed her. But I could say nothing
better than the merest commonplaces. For her old
manner, which I had almost forgotten, a certain cold-
ness shadowed with haughtiness, whose influence I had
strongly felt when I began to make her acquaintance,
had returned. I cannot make my reader understand
how thus could be blended with the sweetness in her


face and the gentleness of her manners ; but there the
opposites were, and I could feel them both. There was
likewise a certain drawing of herself away from me,
which checked the smallest advance on my part ; so
that I wonder at it now, but so it was after a few
words of very ordinary conversation, I bade her good
morning and went away, feeling like " a man forbid "
as if I had done her some wrong, and she had chidden
me for it What a stone lay in my breast ! 1 could
hardly breathe for it What could have caused her to
change her manner towards me ? I had made no ad-
vance ; I could not have offended her. Yet there she
glided up the road, and here stood I, outside the gate.
That road was now a flowing river that bore from me
the treasure of the earth, while my boat was spell-bound,
and could not follow. I would run after her, fall at her
feet, and intreat to know wherein I had offended her.
But there I stood enchanted, and there she floated away
between the trees; till at length she turned the slow
sweep, and I, breathing deep as she vanished from my
sight, turned likewise, and walked back the dreary way
to the village. And now I knew that I had never been
miserable in my life before. And I knew, too, that I
had never loved her as I loved her now.

But, as I had for the last ten years of my life been
striving to be a right will, with a thousand failures and
forgetfulnesses every one of those years, while yet the
desire grew stronger as hope recovered from every fail-
ure, I would now try to do my work as if nothing had
happened to incapacitate me for it. So I went on to


fulfil the plan with which I had left home, including, as
it did, a visit to Thomas Weir, whom I had not seen in
his own shop since he had ordered me out of it This,
as far as I was concerned, was more accidental than
intentional. I had, indeed, abstained from going to him
for a while, in order to give him time to come round ;
but then circumstances which I have recorded inter-
vened to prevent me; so that as yet no advance had
been made on my part any more than on his towards a
reconciliation ; which, however, could have been such
only on one side, for I had not been in the least
offended by the way he had behaved to me, and needed
no reconciliation. To tell the truth, I was pleased to
find that my words had had force enough with him to
rouse his wrath. Anything rather than indifference !
That the heart of the honest man would in the end right
me, I could not doubt; in the meantime I would see
whether a friendly call might not improve the state of
affairs. Till he yielded to the voice within him, how-
ever, I could not expect that our relation to each other
would be quite restored. As long as he resisted his
conscience, and knew that I sided with his conscience,
it was impossible he should regard me with peaceful
eyes, however much he might desire to be friendly with

I found him busy, as usual, for he was one of the most
diligent men I have ever known. But his face was
gloomy, and I thought or fancied that the old scorn had
begun once more to usurp the expression of it Young
Tom was not in the shop.


" It is a long time since I saw you, now, Thomas."

" I can hardly wonder at that," he returned, as if he
were trying to do me justice ; but his eyes dropped, and
he resumed his work, and said no more. I thought it
better to make no reference to the past even by assuring
him that it was not from resentment that I had been a

" How is TomT I asked.

"Well enough," he returned. Then, with a smile of
peevishness not unmingled with contempt, he added :
" He 's getting too uppish for me. I don't think the
Latin agrees with him."

I could not help suspecting at once how the matter
stood namely, that the father, unhappy in his conduct
to his daughter, and unable to make up his mind to do
right with regard to her, had been behaving captiously
and unjustly to his son, and so had rendered himself
more miserable than ever.

" Perhaps he finds it too much for him without me,"
I said, evasively ; " but I called to-day partly to inform
him that I am quite ready now to recommence our read-
ings together; after which I hope you will find the Latin
agree with him better."

" I wish you would let him alone, sir I mean, take
no more trouble about him. You see I can't do as you
want me ; I wasn't made to go another man's way ; and
so it 's very hard more than I can bear to be under
so much obligation to you."

" But you mistake me altogether, Thomas. It is for
the lad's own sake that 1 want to go on reading with him.


And you won't interfere between him and any use I can
be of to him. I assure you, to have you go my way in-
stead of your own is the last thing I could wish, though
I confess I do wish very much that you would choose
the right way for your own way."

He made me no answer, but maintained a sullen siience.

" Thomas," I said at length, " I had thought you were
breaking every bond of Satan that withheld you from
entering into the kingdom of heaven ; but I fear he has
strengthened his bands and holds you now as much a
captive as ever. So it is not even your own way you are
walking in, but his."

" It 's no use your trying to frighten me. I don't
believe in the devil."

" It is God I want you to believe in. And I am not
going to dispute with you now about whether there is a
devil or not. In a matter of life and death we have no
time for settling every disputed point."

" Life or death ! What do you mean ? "

" I mean that whether you believe there is a devil
or not, you know there is an evil power in your mind
dragging you down. I am not speaking in generals ; I
mean now, and you know as to what I mean it. And
if you yield to it, that evil power, whatever may be your
theory about it, will drag you down to death. It is a
matter of life or death, I repeat, not of theory about
the devil."

" Well, I always did say, that if you once give a priest
an inch he 'U take an ell ; and I am sorry I forgot it foi


Having said this, he shut up his mouth in a manner that
indicated plainly enough he would not open it again for
some time. This, more than his speech, irritated me, and
with a mere " good morning," I walked out of the shop.

No sooner was I in the open air than I knew that I
too, I as well as poor Thomas Weir, was under a spell ;
knew that I had gone to him before I had recovered
sufficiently from the mingled disappointment and morti-
fication of my interview with Miss Oldcastle ; that while
I spoke to him I was not speaking with a whole heart ;
that I had been discharging a duty as if I had been dis-
charging a musket ; that, although I had spoken the truth,
I had spoken it ungraciously and selfishly.

I could not bear it. I turned instantly and went back
into the shop.

" Thomas, my friend," I said, holding out my hand,
" I beg your pardon. I was wrong. I spoke to you as
I ought not. I was troubled in my own mind, and that
made me lose my temper and be rude to you, who are
far more troubled than I am. Forgive me !"

He did not take my hand at first, but stared at me as
if, not comprehending me, he supposed that I was back-
ing up what I had said last with more of the same sort.
But by the time I had finished he saw what I meant ; his
countenance altered and looked as if the evil spirit were
about to depart from him ; he held out his hand, gave
mine a great grasp, dropped his head, went on with his
work, and said never a word.

I went out of the shop once more, but in a greatly
altered mood.


On the way home, I tried to find out how it was that
I had that morning failed so signally. I had little
virtue in keeping my temper, because it was naturally
very even; therefore I had the more shame in losing
it. I had borne all my uneasiness about Miss Oldcastle
without, as far as I knew, transgressing in this fashion
till this very morning. Were great sorrows less hurtful
to the tamper than small disappointments ? Yes, surely.
But Shakespeare represents Brutus, after hearing of the
sudden death of his wife, as losing his temper with
Cassius to a degree that bewildered the latter, who said
he did not know that Brutus could have been so angry.
Is this consistent with the character of the stately-minded
Brutus^ or with the dignity of sorrow ? It is. For the
loss of his wife alone would have made him only less
irritable ; but the whole weight of an army, with its
distracting cares and conflicting interests, pressed upon
him ; and the battle of an empire was to be fought at
daybreak, so that he could not be alone with his grief.
Between the silence of death in his mind, and the roar
of life in his brain, he became irritable.

Looking yet deeper into it, I found that till this
morning I had experienced no personal mortification
with respect to Miss Oldcastle. It was not the mere
disappointment of having no more talk with her, for the
sight of her was a blessing I had not in the least expected,
that had worked upon me, but the fact that she had
repelled or seemed to repel me. And thus I found that
self was at the root of the wrong I had done to one over
whose mental condition, especially while I was telling


him the unwelcome truth, I ought to have been as tender
as a mother over her wounded child. I could not say
that it was wrong to feel disappointed or even mortified ;
but something was wrong when one whose especial busi-
ness it was to serve his people in the name of Him who
was full of grace and truth, made them suffer because of
his own inward pain.

No sooner had I settled this in my mind than my
trouble returned with a sudden pang. Had I actually
seen her that morning, and spoken to her, and left her
with a pain in my heart ? What if that face of hers was
doomed ever to bring with it such a pain to be ever
to me no more than a lovely vision radiating grief? It
so, I would endure in silence and as patiently as I could,
trying to make up for the lack of brightness in my own
fate by causing more brightness in the fate of others. I
would at least keep on trying to do my work.

That moment I felt a little hand poke itself into mine.
I looked down, and there was Gerard Weir looking tip
in my face. I found myself in the midst of the children
coming out of school, for it was Saturday, and a half-
holiday. He smiled in my face, and I hope I smiled
in his ; and so, hand in hand, we went on to the vicar-
age, where I gave him up to my sister. But I cannot
convey to my reader any notion of the quietness that
entered my heart with the grasp of that childish hand.
I think it was the faith of the boy in me that comforted
me, but I could not help thinking of the words of oui
Lord about receiving a child in His name, and so re-
ceiving Him. By the time we reached the vicarage my


heart was very quiet As the little child held by my
hand, so I seemed to be holding by God's hand. And
a sense of heart-security, as well as soul-safety, awoke
in me ; and I said to myself, Surely He will take care of
my heart as well as of my mind and my conscience. For
one blessed moment I seemed to be at the very centre
of things, looking out quietly upon my own troubled
emotions as upon something outside of me apart from
me, even as one from the firm rock may look abroad
upon the vexed sea. And I thought I then knew some-
thing of what the apostle meant when he said, " Your
life is hid with Christ in God." I knew that there was
a deeper self than that which was thus troubled.

I had not had my usual ramble this morning, and was
otherwise ill prepared for the Sunday. So I went early
into the church ; but finding that the sexton's wife had
not yet finished lighting the stove, I sat down by my
own fire in the vestry.

Suppose I am sitting there now while I say one word
for our congregations in winter. I was very particular
in having the church well warmed before Sunday. I
think some parsons must neglect seeing after this matter
on principle, because warmth may make a weary crea-
ture go to sleep here and there about the place : as if
any healing doctrine could enter the soul while it is on
the rack of the frost The clergy should see for it is
their business that their people have no occasion to
think of their bodies at all while they are in church.
They have enough ado to think of the truth. When
our Lord was feeding even their bodies, He made them


all sit down on the grass. It is worth noticing that there
was much grass in the place a rare thing I should think
in those countries and therefore, perhaps, it was chosen
by Him for their comfort in feeding their souls and
bodies both. If I may judge from experiences of my
own, one of the reasons why some churches are of all
places the least likely for anything good to be found in,
is, that they are as wretchedly cold to the body as they
are to the soul too cold every way for anything to grow
in them. Edelweiss^ " Noble-white " as they call a
plant growing under the snow on some of the Alps
could not survive the winter in such churches. There is
small welcome in a cold house. And the clergyman,
who is the steward, should look to it. It is for him to
give his Master's friends a welcome to his Master's

Online LibraryGeorge MacDonald[Works] (Volume 3) → online text (page 25 of 35)