George MacDonald.

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first she's had neither, though I never told any one
before. You won't mention it, sir. It makes people
look shy at you, you know, sir."

" Indeed, I won't mention it. Then she mustn't sit
up, and two nurses will be wanted here. You and I
must take it to-night, Thomas. You '11 attend to your
daughter, if she wants anything, and I know this little
darling won't be frightened if he comes to himself, and
sees me beside him."

" God bless you, sir," said Thomas, fervently.

And from that hour to this there has never been a
coolness between us.

" A very good arrangement," said Dr Duncan ; " only
I feel as if I ought to have a share in it."

" No, no,' ; I said. " We do not know who may want
you. Besides, we are both younger than you."

" I will come over early in the morning then, and see
how you are going on."

As soon as Thomas returned with good news of
Mary's recovery, I left him, and went home to tell my
sister, and arrange for the night. We carried back with
us what things we could think of to make the two


patients as comfortable as possible; for, as regarded
Catherine, now that she would let her fellows help her,
I was even anxious that she should feel something of
that love about her which she had so long driven from
her door. I felt towards her somewhat as towards a
new-born child, for whom this life of mingled weft must
be made as soft as its material will admit of; or rather,
as if she had been my own sister, as indeed she was,
returned from wandering in weary and miry ways, to
taste once more the tenderness of home. I wanted her
to read the love of God in the love that even I could
show her. And, besides, I must confess that, although
the result had been, in God's great grace, so good, my
heart still smote me for the severity with which I had
spoken the truth to her ; and it was a relief to myself to
endeavour to make some amends for having so spoken
to her. But I had no intention of going near her that
night, for I thought the less she saw of me the better,
till she should be a little stronger, and have had time,
with the help of her renewed feelings, to get over the
painful associations so long accompanying the thought
of me. So I took my place beside Gerard, and watched
through the night. The little fellow repeatedly cried
out in that terror which is so often the consequence of
the loss of blood ; but when I laid my hand on him, he
smiled without waking, anil lay quite still ag.iin fur a
while. Once or twice he woke up, and looked so be-
wildered that I feared delirium ; but a little jelly com-
posed him, and he fell fast asleep again. He did not
seem even to have headache froi.i the blow.


But when I was left alone with the child, seated in a
chair by the fire, my only light, how my thoughts rushed
upon the facts bearing on my own history which this day
had brought before me 1 Horror it was to think of Miss
Oldcastle even as only riding with the seducer of Cather-
ine Weir. There was torture in the thought of his touch-
ing her hand ; and to think that before the summer came
once more, he might be her husband ! I will not dwell
on the sufferings of that night more than is needful ; for
even now, in my old age, I cannot recall without renew-
ing them. But I must indicate one train of thought
which kept passing through my mind with constant
recurrence : Was it fair to let her marry such a man in
ignorance ? Would she marry him if she knew what I
knew of him ? Could I speak against my rival ?
blacken him even with the truth the only defilement
that can really cling 1 ? Could I for my own dignity do
so 1 And was she therefore to be sacrificed in ignor-
ance ? Might not some one else do it instead of me ?
But if I set it agoing, was it not precisely the same thing
as if I did it myself, only more cowardly? There was
but one way of doing it, and that was with the full and
solemn consciousness that it was and must be a barrier
between us for ever. If I could give her up fully and
altogether, then I might tell her the truth which was to
preserve her from marrying such a man as my rival. And
I must do so, sooner than that she, my very dream of
purity and gentle truth, should wed defilement. But
how bitter to cast away my chance! as I said, in the
gathering despair of that black night. And although


every time I said it for the same words would come
over and over as in a delirious dream I repeated yet
again to myself that wonderful line of Spenser,

" It chanced eternal God that chance did guide,"

yet the words never grew into spirit in me ; they re-
mained " words, words, words," and meant nothing to
my feeling hardly even to my judgment meant anything
at all. Then came another bitter thought, the bitterness
of which was wicked : it flashed upon me that my own
earnestness with Catherine Weir, in urging her to the
duty of forgiveness, would bear a main part in wrapping
up in secrecy that evil thing whicli ought not to be hid.
For had she not vowed with the same facts before her
which now threatened to crush my heart into a lump of
clay to denounce the man at the very altar ? Had not
the revenge which I had ignorantly combated been my
best ally ? And for one brief, black, wicked moment 1
repented that I had acted as I had acted. The next I
was on my knees by the side of the sleeping child, and
had repented back again in shame and sorrow. Then
came the consolation that if I suffered hereby, I suffered
from doing my duty. And that was well.

Scarcely had I seated myself again by the fire when
the door of the room opened softly, and Thomas ap-

" Kate is very strange, sir," he said, " and wants to
see you."

I rose at once.

" Perhaps, then, you had better stay with Gerard."


" I will, sir ; for I think she wants to speak to you

I entered her chamber. A candle stood on a chest of
drawers, and its light fell on her face, once more flushed
in those two spots with the glow of the unseen fire of
disease. Her eyes, too, glittered again, but the fierce-
ness was gone, and only the suffering remained. I drew
a chair beside her, and took her hand. She yielded it
willingly, even returned the pressure of kindness which
I offered to the thin trembling fingers.

" You are too good, sir," she said. " I want to tell
you all. He promised to marry me. I believed him.
But I did very wrong. And I have been a bad mother,
for I could not keep from seeing his face in Gerard's.
Gerard was the name he told me to call him when I had
to write to him, and so I named the little darling Gerard.
How is he, sir 1 "

" Doing nicely," I replied. " I do not think you need
be at all uneasy about him now."

" Thank God. I forgive his father now with all my
heart. I feel it easier since I saw how wicked I could
be myself. And I feel it easier, too, that I have not
long to live. I forgive him with all my heart, and I will
take no revenge. I will not tell one who he is. I have
never told any one yet. But I will tell you. His name
is George Everard Captain Everard. I came to know
him when I was apprenticed at Addicehead. 1 would
not tell you, sir, if I did not know that you will not tell
any one. I know you so well that I will not ask you
not I saw him yesterday, and it drove me wild. But


it is all over now. My heart feels so cool now. Do you
think God will forgive me ? "

Without one word of my own, I took out my pocket
Testament and read these words :

" For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly
Father will also forgive you."

Then I read to her, from the seventh chapter of St
Luke's Gospel, the story of the woman who was a sinner
and came to Jesus in Simon's house, that she might see
how the Lord himself thought and felt about such. When
I had finished, I found that she was gently weeping, and
so I left her, and resumed my place beside the boy. I
told Thomas that he had better not go near her just
yet. So we sat in silence together for a while, during
which I felt so weary and benumbed, that I neither
cared to resume my former train of thought, nor to enter
upon the new one suggested by the confession of Cathe-
rine. I believe I must have fallen asleep in my chair,
for I suddenly returned to consciousness at a cry from
Gerard. I started up, and there was the child fast
asleep, but standing on his feet in his crib, pushing with
his hands from before him, as if resisting some one, and

" Don'L Don't Go away, man. Mammy ! Mr
Walton ! "

I took him in my arms, and kissed him, and laid him
down again ; and he lay as still as if he had never
moved. At the same moment, Thomas came again into
the room.

" I am sorry to be so troublesome, sir," he said ; " but


my poor daughter says there is one thing more she wanted
to say to you."

I returned at once. As soon as I entered the room,
she said eagerly :

" I forgive him I forgive him with all my heart ; but
don't let him take Gerard."

I assured her I would do my best to prevent any such
attempt on his part, and making her promise to try to
go to sleep, left her once more. Nor was either of the
patients disturbed again during the night. Both slept,
as it appeared, refreshingly.

In the morning, that is, before eight o'clock, the old
doctor made his welcome appearance, and pronounced
both quite as well as he had expected to find them. In
another hour, he had sent young Tom to take my place,
and my sister to take his father's. I was determined
that none of the gossips of the village should go near
the invalid if I could help it ; for, though such might be
kind-hearted and estimable women, their place was not
by such a couch as that of Catherine Weir. I enjoined
my sister to be very gentle in her approaches to her, to
be careful even not to seem anxious to serve her, and so
to allow her to get gradually accustomed to her presence,
not showing herself for the first day more than she could
help, and yet taking good care she should have every-
thing she wanted. Martha seemed to understand me
perfectly ; and I left her in charge with the more con-
fidence that I knew Dr Duncan would call several times
in the course of the day. As for Tom, I had equal
assurance that he would attend to orders ; and as Gerard


was very fond of him, I dismissed all anxiety about both,
and allowed my mind to return with fresh avidity to
the contemplation of its own cares, and fears, and per-

It was of no use trying to go to sleep, so I set out foi
a walk.



|T was a fine frosty morning, the invigorating
influences of which, acting along with the
excitement following immediately upon a
sleepless night, overcame in a great measure
the depression occasioned by the contemplation of my
circumstances. Disinclined notwithstanding for any
more pleasant prospect, I sought the rugged common
where I had so lately met Catherine Weir in the storm
and darkness, and where I had stood without knowing
it upon the very verge of the precipice down which my
fate was now threatening to hurl me. I reached the
same chasm in which I had sought a breathing space
on that night, and turning into it, sat down upon a block
of sand which the frost had detached from the wall
above. And now the tumult began again in my mind,
revolving around the vortex of a new centre of difficulty.
For, first of all, I found my mind relieved by the fact


that, having urged Catherine to a line of conduct which
had resulted in confession, a confession which, leav-
ing all other considerations of my office out of view,
had the greater claim upon my secrecy that it was made
in confidence in my uncovenanted honour, I was not,
could not be at liberty to disclose the secret she con-
fided to me, which, disclosed by herself, would have
been the revenge from which I had warned her, and at
the same time my deliverance. I was relieved I say at
first, by this view of the matter, because I might thus
keep my own chance of some favourable turn ; whereas,
if I once told Miss Oldcastle, I must give her up for
ever, as I had plainly seen in the watch of the preceding
night But my love did not long remain skulking thus
behind the hedge of honour. Suddenly I woke and sav
that I was unworthy of the honour of loving her, fof
that I was glad to be compelled to risk her well-being
for the chance of my own happiness ; a risk which in-
volved infinitely more wretchedness to her than the loss
of my dearest hopes to me ; for it is one thing for
a man not to marry the v/oman he loves, and quite
another for a woman to marry a man she cannot even
respect. Hail I not been withheld partly by my obliga-
tion to Catherine, partly by the feeling that I ought to
wait and see what God would do, I should have risen
that moment and gone straight to Oldcastle Hall, that
I might plunge at once into the ocean of my loss, and
encounter, with the full sense of honourable degrada-
tion, ever}' misconstruction that might justly be devised
of my conduct. For that I had given her up first could


never be known even to her in this world. I could
only save her by encountering and enduring and cherish-
ing her scorn. At least so it seemed to me at the time ;
and, although I am certain the other higher motives had
much to do in holding me back, I am equally certain
that this awful vision of the irrevocable fate to follow
upon the deed, had great influence, as well, in inclining
me to suspend action.

I was still sitting in the hollow, when I heard the
sound of horses' hoofs in the distance, and felt a fore-
boding of what would appear. I was only a few yards
from the road upon which the sand-cleft opened, and
could see a space of it sufficient to show the persons
even of rapid riders. The sounds drew nearer. I could
distinguish the step of a pony and the steps of two
horses besides. Up they came and swept past Miss
Oldcastle upon Judy's pony, and Mr Stoddart upon her
horse, with the captain upon his own. How grateful I
felt to Mr Stoddart ! And the hope arose in me that
he had accompanied them at Miss Oldcastle's request.

I had had no fear of being seen, sitting as I was on
the side from which they came. One of the three, how-
ever, caught a glimpse of me, and even in the moment
ere she vanished I fancied I saw the lily-white grow
rosy-red. But it must have been fancy, for she could
hardly have been quite pale upon horseback on such a
keen morning.

I could not sit any longer. As soon as I ceased to hear
the sound of their progress, I rose and walked home
much quieter in heart and mind than when I set out.


As I entered by the nearer gate of the vicarage, I
saw Old Rogers enter by the farther. He did not see
me, but we met at the door. I greeted him.

" I 'm in luck," he said, " to meet yer reverence just
coming home. How's poor Miss Weir to-day, sir?"

" She was rather better, when I left her this morning,
than she had been through the night. I have not heard
since. I left my sister with her. I greatly doubt if she
will ever get up again. That's between ourselves, you
know. Come in."

" Thank you, sir. I wanted to have a little talk with
you. You don't believe what they say that she tried
to kill the poor little fellow]" he asked, as soon as the
study door was closed behind us.

" If she did, she was out of her mind for the moment.
But I don't believe it."

And thereupon I told him what both his master and
I thought about it. But I did not tell him what she
had said confirmatory of our conclusions.

"That's just what I came to myself, sir, turning the
thing over in my old head. But there's dreadful things
done in the world, sir. There 's my daughter been
a-telling of me "

I was instantly breathless attention. What he chose
to tell me I felt at liberty to hear, though I would not
have listened to Jane herself. I must here mention that
she and Richard were not yet married, old Mr Brown-
rigg not having yet consented to any day his son wished
to fix; and that she was, therefore, still in her place of
attendance upon Miss Oldcastle.


" There 's been my daughter a-telling of me," said

Rogers, " that the old lady up at the Hall there is tor-
menting the life out of that daughter of hers she don't
look much like hers, do she, sir ? wanting to make her
marry a man of her choosing. I saw him go past o'
horseback with her yesterday, and I didn't more than
half like the looks on him. He 's too like a fair-spoken
captain I sailed with once, what was the hardest man I
ever sailed with. His own way was everything, even
after he saw it wouldn't do. Now, don't you think, sir,
somebody or other ought to interfere 1 It 's as bad as
murder that, and anybody has a right to do summat to
perwent it."

" I don't know what can be done, Rogers. I can't

The old man was silent. Evidently he thought 1
might interfere if I pleased. I could see what he was
thinking. Possibly his daughter had told him something
more than he chose to communicate to me. I could not
help suspecting the mode in which he judged I might
interfere. But I could see no likelihood before me but
that of confusion and precipitation. In a word, I had
not a plain path to follow.

" Old Rogers," I said, " I can almost guess what you
mean. But I am in more difficulty with regard to what
you suggest than I can easily explain to you. I need not
tell you, however, that I will turn the whole matter over
in my mind."

" The prey ought to be taken from the lion somehow,
if it please God," returned the old man solemnly. " The


poor young lady keeps up as well as she can before her
mother ; but Jane do say there 's a power o' crying done
in her own room."

Partly to hide my emotion, partly with the sudden
resolve to do something, if anything could be done, I
said :

" I will call on Mr Stoddart this evening. I may hear
something from him to suggest a mode of action."

" I don't think you '11 get anything worth while from
Mr Stoddart He takes things a deal too easy like.
He'll be this man's man and that man's man both at
oncet I beg your pardon, sir. But he won't help us."

" That's all I can think of at present, though," I said ;
whereupon the man-of-war's man, with true breeding,
rose at once, and took a kindly leave.

I was in the storm again. She suffering, resisting, and
I standing aloof ! But what could I do ? She had re
pelled me she would repel me. Were I to dare to
speak, and so be refused, the separation would be final.
She had said that the day might come when she would
ask help from me : she had made no movement towards
the request. I would gladly die to serve her yea, more
gladly far than live, if that service was to separate us.
But what to do I could not see. Still, just to do some-
thing, even if a useless something, I would go and see
Mr Stoddart that evening. I was sure to find him alone,
for he never dined with the family, and I might possibly
catch a glimpse of Miss Oldcastle.

I found little Gerard so much better, though very
weak, and his mother so quiet, notwithstanding great


feverishness, that I might safely leave them to the care
of Mary, who had quite recovered from her attack, and
her brother Tom. So there was something off my mind
for the present

The heavens were glorious with stars, Arcturus and
his host, the Pleiades, Orion, and all those worlds that
shine out when ours is dark; but I did not care for
them. Let them shine : they could not shine into me.
I tried with feeble effort to lift my eyes to Him who is
above the stars, and yet holds the sea, yea, the sea of
human thought and trouble, in the hollow of His hand.
How much sustaining, although no conscious comfort-
ing, I got from that region

" Where all men's prayers to Thee raised
Return possessed of what they pray Thee,"

I cannot tell. It was not a time favourable to the
analysis of feeling still less of religious feeling. But
somehow things did seem a little more endurable before
I reached the house.

I was passing across the hall, following the " white
wolf" to Mr Stoddart's room, when the drawing-room
door opened, and Miss Oldcastle came half out, but
seeing me drew back instantly. A moment after, how-
ever, I heard the sound of her dress following us. Light
as was her step, every footfall seemed to be upon my
heart. I did not dare to look round, for dread of seeing
her turn away from me. I felt like one under a spell, or
in an endless dream ; but gladly would I have walked
on for ever in hope, with that silken vortex of sound fol-
lowing me Soon, however, it ceased. She had turned


aside in some other direction, and I passed on to Mr
Stoddart's room.

He received me kindly, as he always did; but his
smile flickered uneasily. He seemed in some trouble,
and yet pleased to see me.

" I am glad you have taken to horseback," I said.
" It gives me hope that you will be my companion some-
times when I make a round of my parish. I should
like you to see some of our people. You would find
more in them to interest you than perhaps you would

I thus tried to seem at ease, as I was far from feeling.

*' I am not so fond of riding as I used to be," returned
Mr Stoddart

" Did you like the Arab horses in India 1 "

" Yes, after I got used to their careless ways. That
horse you must have seen me on the other day, is very
nearly a pure Arab. He belongs to Captain Everard,
and carries Miss Oldcastle beautifully. I was quite
sorry to take him from her, but it was her own doing.
She would have me go with her. I think I have lost
much firmness since I was ill."

" If the loss of firmness means the increase of kind-
ness, I do not think you will have to lament it," I an-
swered. " Does Captain Everard make a long stay ? "

" He stays from day to day. I wish he would go. I
don't know what to do. Mrs Oldcastle and he form one
party in the house; Miss Oldcastle and Judy another;
and each is trying to gain me over. I don't want to
belong to either. If they would only let me alone ! *


" What do they want of you, Mr Stoddart?"

" Mrs Oldcastle wants me to use my influence with
Ethelwyn, to persuade her to behave differently to Cap-
tain Everard. The old lady has set her heart on their
marriage, and Ethelwyn, though she dares not break
with him, she is so much afraid of her mother, yet keeps
him somehow at arm's length. Then Judy is always
begging me to stand up for her aunt. But what 's the
use of my standing up for her if she won't stand up for
herself; she never says a word to me about it herself.
It's all Judy's doing. How am I to know what she
wants 1 "

" I thought you said just now she asked you to ride
with her ] "

" So she did, but nothing more. She did not even
press it, only the tears came in her eyes when I refused,
and I could not bear that ; so I went against my will
I don't want to make enemies. I am sure I don't see
why she should stand out. He 's a very good match in
point of property and family too."

" Perhaps she does not like him ] " I forced myself to

" Oh ! I suppose not, or she would not be so trouble-
some. But she could arrange all that if she were in-
clined to be agreeable to her friends. After all I have
done for her ! Well, one must not look to be repaid
for anything one does for others. I used to be very
fond of her : I am getting quite tired of her miserable

And what had this man done for her, then 1 He had,


for his own amusement, taught her Hindostanee; he
had given her some insight into the principles of me-
chanics, and he had roused in her some taste for the
writings of the Mystics. But for all that regarded the
dignity of her humanity and her womanhood, if she had
had no teaching but what he gave her, her mind would
have been merely " an unweeded garden that grows to
seed." And now he complained that in return for his
pains she would not submit to the degradation of marry-
ing a man she did not love, in order to leave him in the
enjoyment of his own lazy and cowardly peace. Really
he was a worse man than I had thought him. Clearly
he would not help to keep her in the right path, not
even interfere to prevent her from being pushed into the
wrong one. But perhaps he was only expressing his

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