George MacDonald.

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way with us, following where He leads, learning the les-
sons He gives us.

I wished that Mr Stoddart had been with me during
these two visits. Perhaps he might have seen that the
education of life was a marvellous thing, and, even in
the poorest intellectual results, far more full of poetry
and wonder than the outcome of that constant watering
with the watering-pot of self-education which, dissociated
from the duties of life and the influences of his fellows,
had made of him what he was. But I doubt if he would
have seen it.

A week had elapsed from the night I had sat up with
Gerard Weir, and his mother had not risen from her bed,
nor did it seem likely she would ever rise again. On a
Friday I went to see her, just as the darkness was be-
ginning to gather. The fire of life was burning itself
out fast. It glowed on her cheeks, it burned in her
hands, it blazed in her eyes. But the fever had left her
mind. That was cool, oh, so cool, now ! Those fierce
tropical storms of passion had passed away, and nothing
of life was lost. Revenge had passed away, but revenge
is of death, and deadly. Forgiveness had taken its
place, and forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving
of life. Gerard, his dear little head starred with sticking-
plaster, sat on her bed, looking as quietly happy as child
could look, over a wooden horse with cylindrical body
and jointless legs, covered with an eruption of red and
black spots. Is it the ignorance or the imagination of
children that makes them so easily pleased with the


merest hint at representation 1 I suspect the one helps
the other towards that most desirable result, satisfaction.
But he dropped it when he saw me, in a way so
abandoning that comparing small things with great it
called to my mind those lines of Milton :

" From his slack hand the garland wreathed for Eve,
Down dropt, and all the faded roses shed."

The quiet child flung himself upon my neck, and the
mother's face gleamed with pleasure.

" Dear boy ! " 1 said, " I am very glad to see you so
much better."

For this was the first time he had shown such a revival
of energy. He had been quite sweet when he saw me,
but, until this evening, list/ess.

" Yes," he said, " I am quite well now." And he put
his hand up to his head.

" Does it ache \ "

" Not much now. The doctor says I had a bad fall.' 1

" So you had, my child. But you will soon be well

The mother's face was turned aside, yet I could see
one tear forcing its way from under her closed eyelid.

" Oh, I don't mind it," he answered. " Mammy is
so kind to me ! She lets me sit on her bed as long as
I like."

" That is nice. But just run to auntie in the next
room. I think your mammy would like to talk to me
for a little while."

The child hurried off the bed, and ran with over-
flowing obedience.

2 I


" I can even think of him now," said the mother,
" without going into a passion. I hope God will for-
give him. / do. I think He will forgive me."

" Did you ever hear," I asked, " of Jesus refusing
anybody that wanted kindness from Him ? He wouldn't
always do exactly what they asked Him, because that
would sometimes be of no use, and sometimes would
even be wrong ; but He never pushed them away from
Him, never repulsed their approach to Him. For the
sake of His disciples, He made the Syrophenician
woman suffer a little while, but only to give her such
praise afterwards and such a granting of her prayer as
is just wonderful."

She said nothing for a little while ; then murmured,

Shall I have to be ashamed to all eternity ? I do
not want not to be ashamed ; but shall I never be able
to be like other people in heaven I mean 1 "

" If He is satisfied with you, you need not think
anything more about yourself. If He lets you once
kiss His feet, you won't care to think about other
people's opinion of you even in heaven. But things
will go very differently there from here. For everybody
there will be more or less ashamed of himself, and will
think worse of himself than he does of any one else.
If trouble about your past life were to show itself on
your face there, they would all run to comfort you,
trying to make the best of it, and telling you that you
must think about yourself as He thinks about you ; for
what He thinks is the rule, because it is the infallible
right way. But perhaps rather, they would tell you to


leave that to Him who has taken away our sins, and
not trouble yourself any more about it But to tell the
truth, I don't think such thoughts will come to you at all
when once you have seen the face of Jesus Christ. You
will be so filled with His glory and goodness and grace,
that you will just live in Him and not in yourself at all."

" Will He let us tell Him anything we please ? "

" He lets you do that now : surely He will not be
less our God, our friend there."

u Oh, I don't mind how soon He takes me now !
Only there 's that poor child that I 've behaved so badly
to ! I wish I could take him with me. I have no time
to make it up to him here."

" You must wait till he comes. He won't think
hardly of you. There 's no fear of that."

" What will become of him, though ? I can't bear
the idea of burdening my father with him."

" Your father will be glad to have him, I know. He
will feel it a privilege to do something for your sake.
Lut the boy will do him good. If he does not want
him, I will take him myself."

" Oh ! thank you, thank you, sir."

A burst of tears followed.

" He has often done me good," I said.

"Who, sir? My father?"

" Xo. Your son."

" I don't quite understand what you mean, sir."

" I mean just what I say. The words and behaviour
of your lovely boy have both roused and comforted my
heart ajrain and a^ain."


She burst again into tears.

"That is good to hear. To think of your saying
that ! The poor little innocent ! Then it isn't all
punishment ? "

" If it were all punishment, we should perish utterly.
He is your punishment ; but look in what a lovely loving
form your punishment has come, and say whether God
has been good to you or not."

" If I had only received my punishment humbly,
things would have been very different now. But I do
take it at least I want to take it just as He would
have me take it. I will bear anything He likes. I
suppose I must die?"

" I think He means you to die now. You are ready
for it now, I think. You have wanted to die for a long
time ; but you were not ready for it before."

" And now I want to live for my boy. But His will
be done."

" Amen. There is no such prayer in the universe
as that It means everything best and most beautiful.
Thy will, O God, evermore be done."

She lay silent. A tap came to the chamber-door. It
was Mary, who nursed her sister and attended to the

" If you please, sir, here 's a little girl come to say
that Mrs Tomkins is dying, and wants to see you."

" Then I must say good-night to you, Catherine. I
will see you to-morrow morning. Think about old Mrs
Tomkins ; she 's a good old soul ; and when you find
your heart drawn to her in the trouble of death, then


lift it up to God for her, that He will please to comfort
and support her, and make her happier than health
stronger than strength, taking off the old worn garment
of her body, and putting upon her the garment of sal-
vation, which will be a grand new body, like that the
Saviour had when He rose again."

" I will try. I will think about her."

For I thought this would be a help to prepare her
for her own death. In thinking lovingly about others,
we think healthily about ourselves. And the things
she thought of for the comfort of Mrs Tomkins, would
return to comfort herself in the prospect of her own
end, when perhaps she might not be able to think them
p*' for h



JUT of the two, Catherine had herself to go
first. Again and again was I sent for to say
farewell to Mrs Tomkins, and again and
again I returned home leaving her asleep,
and for the time better. But on a Saturday evening, as
I sat by my vestry-fire, pondering on many things, and
trying to make myself feel that they were as God saw
them and not as they appeared to me, young Tom came
to me with the news that his sister seemed much worse,
and his father would be much obliged if I would go and
see her. I sent Tom on before, because I wished to
follow alone.

It was a brilliant starry night ; no moon, no clouds,
no wind, nothing but stars. They seemed to lean down
towards the earth, as I have seen them since in more
southern regions. It was, indeed, a glorious night. That
is, I knew it was ; I did not feel that it was. For the


death which I went to be near, came, with a strange
sense of separation, between me and the nature around
me. I felt as if nature knew nothing, felt nothing,
meant nothing, did not belong to humanity at all ; for
here was death, and there shone the stars. I was wrong,
as I knew afterwards.

I had had very little knowledge of the external shows
of death. Strange as it may appear, I had never yet
seen a fellow-creature pass beyond the call of his fellow-
mortals. I had not even seen my father die. And the
thought was oppressive to me. " To think," I said to
myself, as I walked over the bridge to the village-street
" to think that the one moment the person is here,
and the next who shall say where 7 for we know nothing
of the region beyond the grave ! Not even our risen
Lord thought fit to bring back from Hades any news for
the human family standing straining their eyes after their
brothers and sisters that have vanished in the dark.
Surely it is well, all well, although we know nothing,
save that our Lord has been there, knows all about it,
and does not choose to tell us. Welcome ignorance,
then ! the ignorance in which he chooses to leave us. I
would rather not know, if He gave me my choice, but
preferred that I should not know." And so the oppres-
sion passed from me, and I was free.

But little as I knew of the signs of the approach of
death, I was certain, the moment I saw Catherine, that
the veil that hid the "silent land" had begun to lift
slowly between her and it. And for a moment I almost
envied her that she was so soon to see and know that


after which our blindness and ignorance were wondering
and hungering. She could hardly speak. She looked
more patient than calm. There was no light in the room
but that of the fire, which flickered flashing and fading,
now lighting up the troubled eye, and now letting a
shadow of the coming repose fall gently over it. Thomas
sat by the fire with the child on his knee, both looking
fixedly into the glow. Gerard's natural mood was so
quiet and earnest, that the solemnity about him did not
oppress him. He looked as if he were present at some
religious observance of which he felt more than he under-
stood, and his childish peace was in no wise inharmo-
nious with the awful silence of the coming change. He
was no more disquieted at the presence of death than
the stars were.

And this was the end of the lovely girl to leave the
fair world still young, because a selfish roan had seen that
she was fair ! No time can change the relation of cause
and effect. The poison that operates ever so slowly is
yet poison, and yet slays. And that man was now mur-
dering her, with weapon long-reaching from out of the
past. But no, thank God ! this was not the end of her.
Though there is woe for that man by whom the offence
cometh, yet there is provision for the offence. There is
One who bringeth light out of darkness, joy out of sor-
row, humility out of wrong. Back to the Father's house
we go with the sorrows and sins which, instead of inherit-
ing the earth, we gathered and heaped upon our weary
shoulders, and a different Elder Brother from that angry
one who would not receive the poor swine-humbled pro-


digal, takes the burden from our shoulders, and leads us
into the presence of the Good.

She put out her hand feebly, let it lie in mine, looked
as if she wanted me to sit down by her bedside, and
when I did so, closed her eyes. She said nothing. Her
father was too much troubled to meet me without show-
ing the signs of his distress, and his was a nature that
ever sought concealment for its emotion ; therefore he
sat still. But Gerard crept down from his knee, came
to me, clambered up on mine, and laid his little hand
upon his mother's, which I was holding. She opened
her eyes, looked at the child, shut them again, and tears
came out from between the closed lids.

" Has Gerard ever been baptized ? '' I asked her.

Her lips indicated a no.

" Then I will be his godfather. And that will be a
pledge to you that I will never lose sight of him."

She pressed my hand, and the tears came faster.

Believing with all my heart that the dying should
remember their dying Lord, and that the " Do this in
remembrance of me " can never be better obeyed than
when the partaker is about to pass, supported by the
God of his faith, through the same darkness which lay
before our Lord when He uttered the words and ap-
pointed the symbol, we kneeled, Thomas and I, and
young Tom, who had by this time joined us with his
sister Mar)', around the bed, and partook with the dying
woman of the signs of that death, wherein our Lord gave
Himself entirely to us, to live by His death, and to the
Father of us all in holiest sacrifice as the high-priest of


us His people, leading us to the altar of a like self-
abnegation. Upon what that bread and that wine mean,
the sacrifice of our Lord, the whole world of humanity
hangs. It is the redemption of men.

After she had received the holy sacrament, she lay
still as before. I heard her murmur once, " Lord, I do
not deserve it. But I do love Thee." And about two
hours after, she quietly breathed her last. We all kneeled,
and I thanked the Father of us aloud that He had taken
her to Himself. Gerard had been fast asleep on his
aunt's lap, and she had put him to bed a little before.
Surely he slept a deeper sleep than his mother's ; for had
she not awaked even as she fell asleep ?

When I came out once more, I knew better what the
stars meant. They looked to me now as if they knew
all about death, and therefore could not be sad to the
eyes of men; as if that unsympathetic look they wore
came from this, that they were made like the happy
truth, and not like our fears.

But soon the solemn feeling of repose, the sense that
the world and all its cares would thus pass into nothing,
vanished in its turn. For a moment I had been, as it
were, walking on the shore of the Eternal, where the
tide of time had left me in its retreat. Far away across
the level sands I heard it moaning, but I stood on the
firm ground of truth, and heeded it not. In a few mo-
ments more it was raving around me ; it had carried me
away from my rest, and I was filled with the noise of its

For when I returned home, my sister told me that Old


Rogers had called, and seemed concerned not to find
me at home. He would have gone to find me, my
sister said, had I been anywhere but by a deathbed. lie
would not leave any message, however, saying he would
call in the morning.

I thought it better to go to his house. The stars were
still shining as brightly as before, but a strong forebod-
ing of trouble filled my mind, and once more the stars
were far away, and lifted me no nearer to " Him who
made the seven stars and Orion." When I examined
myself, I could give no reason for my sudden fearfulness,
save this : that as I went to Catherine's house, I had
passed Jane Rogers on her way to her father's, and
having just greeted her, had gone on; but, as it now
came back upon me, she had looked at me strangely
that is, with some significance in her fare which
conveyed nothing to me ; and now her father had been
to seek me : it must have something to do with Miss

But when I came to the cottage, it was dark and still,
and I could not bring myself to rouse the weary man
from his bed. Indeed it was past eleven, as I found to
my surprise on looking at my watch. So I turned and
lingered by the old mill, and fell a pondering on the
profusion of strength that rushed past the wheel away
to the great sea, doing nothing. " Nature," I thou.Jit,
" does not demand that power should always be force.
Power itself must repose. Me that believeth shall not
make haste, says the I'.ible. But it needs strength to
be still Is my faith not strong enough to be still J" I


looked up to the heavens once more, and the quietness
of the stars seemed to reproach me. " We are safe up
here," they seemed to say : " we shine, fearless and con-
fident, for the God who gave the primrose its rough
leaves to hide it from the blast of uneven spring, hangs
us in the awful hollows of space. We cannot fall out
of His safety. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold !
Who hath created these things that bringeth out their
host by number ! He calleth them all by names. By
the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in
power, not one faileth. Why sayest thou, O Jacob !
and speakest, O Israel ! my way is hid from the Lord,
and my judgment is passed over from my God ?"

The night was very still; there was, I thought, no
one awake within miles of me. The stars seemed to
shine into me the divine reproach of those glorious
words. " O my God ! " I cried, and fell on my knees
by the mill-door.

What I tried to say more I will not say here. I may
say that I cried to God. What I said to Him ought
not, cannot be repeated to another.

When I opened my eyes I saw the door of the mill
was open too, and there in the door, his white head
glimmering, stood Old Rogers, with a look on his face
as if he had just come down from the mount. I started
to my feet, with that strange feeling of something like
shame that seizes one at the very thought of other eyes
than those of the Father. The old man came forward,
and bowed his head with an unconscious expression
of humble dignity, but would have passed me without


speech, leaving the mill-door open behind him. I could
not bear to part with him thus.

" Won't you speak to me, Rogers ? " I said.

He turned at once with evident pleasure.

" I beg your pardon, sir. I was ashamed of having
intruded on you, and I thought you would rather be

left alone. I thought I thought " hesitated the old

man, " that you might like to go into the mill, for the
night 's cold out o' doors."

" Thank you, Rogers. I won't now. I thought you
had been in bed. How do you come to be out so

" You see, sir, when I 'm in any trouble, it 's no use
to go to bed. I can't sleep. I only keep the old 'oman
\vakin'. And the key o' the mill allus hangin' at the
back o 1 my door, and knowin' it to be a good place to
to shut the door in, I came out as soon as she was
asleep ; but I little thought to see you, sir."

" I came to find you, not thinking how the time went.
Catherine Weir is gone home."

" I am right glad to hear it, poor woman. And per-
haps something will come out now that will help us."

" I do not quite understand you," I said, with hesita-

But Rogers made no reply.

" I am sorry to hear you are in trouble to-night. Can
I help you?" I resumed.

" If you can help yourself, sir, you can help me. But
I have no right to say so. Only, if a pair of old eyes
be not blind, a man may pray to God about anything


he sees. I was prayin' hard about you in there, sir,
while you was on your knees o' the other side o' the

I could partly guess what the old man meant, and I
could not ask him for further explanation.

" What did you want to see me about 1 " I inquired.

He hesitated for a moment.

" I daresay it was very foolish of me, sir. But I just
wanted to tell you that our Jane was down here from
the Hall this arternoon "

" I passed her on the bridge. Is she quite well 1 "

" Yes, yes, sir. You know that 's not the point."

The old man's tone seemed to reprove me for vain
words, and I held my peace.

" The captain 's there again."

An icy spear seemed to pass through my heart. I
could make no reply. The same moment a cold wind
blew on me from the open door of the mill.

Although Lear was of course right when he said,

" The tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else
Save what beats there,"

yet it is also true, that sometimes, in the midst of its
greatest pain, the mind takes marvellous notice of the
smallest things that happen around it. This involves a
law of which illustrations could be plentifully adduced
from Shakespeare himself, namely, that the intellectual
part of the mind can go on working with strange inde-
pendence of the emotional.

From the door of the mill, as from a sepulchral


cavern, blew a cold wind like the very breath of death
upon me, just when that pang shot, in absolute pain,
through my heart For a wind had arisen from behind
the mill, and we were in its shelter save where a window
behind and the door beside me allowed free passage to
the first of the coming storm.

I believed I turned away from the old man without
a word. He made no attempt to detain me. Whether
he went back into his closet, the old mill, sacred in the
eyes of the Father who honours His children, even as
the church wherein many prayers went up to Him, or
turned homewards to his cottage and his sleeping wife,
I cannot tell. The first I remember after that cold
wind is, that I was fighting with that wind, gathered
even to a storm, upon the common where I had dealt
so severely with her who had this very night gone into
that region into which, as into a waveless sea, all the
rivers of life rush and are silent. Is it the sea of death ]
No. The sea of life a life too keen, too refined, for
our senses to know it, and therefore we call it death
because we cannot lay hold upon it.

I will not dwell upon my thoughts as I wandered
about over that waste. The wind had risen to a storm
charged with fierce showers of stinging hail, which gave
a look of gray wrath to the invisible wind as it swept
slanting by, and then danced and scudded along the
levels. The next point in that night of pain is when I
lound myself standing at the iron gate of Oldcastle
Hall. I had left the common, passed my own house
and the church, crossed the river, walked through the


vilkge, and was restored to self-consciousness that is,
I knew that I was there only when first I stood in the
shelter of one of those great pillars and the monster on
its top. Finding the gate open, for they were not pre-
cise about having it fastened, I pushed it and entered.
The wind was roaring in the trees as I think I have
never heard it roar since ; for the hail clashed upon the
bare branches and twigs, and mingled an unearthly hiss
with the roar. In the midst of it the house stood like a
tomb, dark, silent, without one dim light to show that
sleep and not death ruled within. I could have fancied
that there were no windows in it, that it stood, like an
eyeless skull, in that gaunt forest of skeleton trees,
empty and desolate, beaten by the ungenial hail, the
dead rain of the country of death. I passed round to
the other side, stepping gently lest some ear might be
awake as if any ear, even that of Judy's white wolf, could
have heard the loudest step in such a storm. I heard
the hailstones crush between my feet and the soft grass
of the lawn, but I dared not stop to look up at the back
of the house. I went on to the staircase in the rock,
and by its rude steps, dangerous in the flapping of such
storm-wings as swept about it that night, descended to
the little grove below, around the deep-walled pool.
Here the wind did not reach me. It roared overhead,
but, save an occasional sigh, as if of sympathy with
their suffering brethren abroad in the world, the hermits
of this cell stood upright and still around the sleeping
water. But my heart was a well in which a storm boiled
and raged; and all that "pother o'er my head" was


peace itself compared to what I felt. I sat down on
the seat at the ioot of a tree, where I had first seen
Miss Oldcastle reading. And then I looked up to the
house. Yes, there was a light there ! It must be in

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