George MacDonald.

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She turned once more, fiercer than ever, upon Jane,
and in a tone of rage under powerful repression, be-
gan :

" You leave the house this instant."

The last two words, notwithstanding her self-corn
mand, rose to a scream. And she came from the fire
towards Jane, who stood trembling near the door, with
such an expression on her countenance that absolute
fear drove her from the room before she knew what
she was about The locking of the door behind her
let her know that she had abandoned her young mis-


tress to the madness of her mother's evil temper and
disposition. But it was too late. She lingered by the
door and listened, but beyond an occasional hoarse
tone of suppressed energy, she heard nothing. At
length the lock as suddenly turned, and she was sur-
prised by Mrs Oldcastle, if not in a listening attitude,
at least where she had no right to be after the dismissal
she had received.

Opposite Miss Oldcastle's bedroom was another,
seldom used, the door of which was now standing open.
Instead of speaking to Jane, Mrs Oldcastle gave her a
violent push, which drove her into this room. There-
upon she shut the door and locked it Jane spent the
whole of the night in that room, in no small degree of
trepidation as to what might happen next. But she
heard no noise all the rest of the night, part of which,
however, was spent in sound sleep, for Jane's conscience
was in no ways disturbed as to any part she had played
in the current events.

It was not till the morning that she examined the
door, to see if she could not manage to get out and
escape from the house, for she shared with the rest of
the family an indescribable fear of Mrs Oldcastle and
her confidante, the White Wolf. But she found it was
of no use : the lock was at least as strong as the door.
Being a sensible girl and self-possessed, as her parents'
child ought to be, she made no noise, but waited
patiently for what might come. At length, hearing a
step in the passage, she tapped gently at the door and
called, " Who 's there 1 " The cook's voice answered.


" Let me out," said Jane. " The door's locked."
The cook tried, but found there was no key. Jane
told her how she came there, and the cook promised
to get her out as soon as she could. Meantime all she
could do for her was to hand her a loaf of bread on a
stick from the next window. It had been long dark
before some one unlocked the door, and left her at
liberty to go where she pleased, of which she did not
fail to make immediate use.

Unable to find her young mistress, she packed her
box, and, leaving it behind her, escaped to her father.
As soon as she had told him the story, he came straight
to me.



[|S I sat in my study, in the twilight of that
same day, the door was hurriedly opened,
and Judy entered. She looked about the
room with a quick glance to see that we
were alone, then caught my hand in both of hers, and
burst out crying.

" Why, Judy ! " I said, " what is the matter 1 "
But the sobs would not allow her to answer. I was
too frightened to put any more questions, and so stood
silent my chest feeling like an empty tomb that waited
for death to fill it. At length with a strong effort she
checked the succession of her sobs, and spoke.

" They are killing auntie. She looks like a ghost
already," said the child, again bursting into tears.
" Tell me, Judy, what can I do for her?"
"You must find out, Mr Walton. If you loved her
as much as I do, you would find out what to do."


" But she will not let me do anything for her."

"Yes, she will. She says you promised to help her
some day."

" Did she send you, then 1 "

" No. She did not send me."

" Then how what what can I do 1 "

" Oh, you exact people ! You must have everything
square and in print before you move. If it had been
me now, wouldn't I have been off like a shot ! Do get
your hat, Mr Walton."

" Come, then, Judy. I will go at once. Shall I see
her ? "

And every vein throbbed at the thought of rtscuing
her from her persecutors, though I had not yet the
smallest idea how it was to be effected.

"We will talk about that as we go," said Judy,

In a moment more we were in the open air. It was
a still night, with an odour of damp earth, and a hint
of green buds in it A pale half-moon hung in the sky,
now and then hidden by the clouds that swept across
it, for there was wind in the heavens, though upon earth
all was still. I offered Judy my arm, but she took my
hand, and we walked on without a word till we had got
through the village and out upon the road.

" Now, Judy," I said at last, " tell me what they are
doing to your aunt ? "

" I don't know what they are doing. But I am sure
she will die."

"Is she ill I"


" She is as white as a sheet, and will not leave her
room. Grannie must have frightened her dreadfully.
Everybody is frightened at her but me, and I begin to
be frightened too. And what will become of auntie

" But what can her mother do to her ? "

" I don't know. I think it is her determination to
have her own way that makes auntie afraid she will get
it somehow ; and she says now she will rather die than
marry Captain Everard. Then there is no one allowed
to wait on her but Sarah, and I know the very sight of
her is enough to turn auntie sick almost. What has
become of Jane I don't know. I haven't seen her all
day, and the servants are whispering together more
than usual. Auntie can't eat what Sarah brings her, I
am sure ; else I should almost fancy she was starving
herself to death to keep clear of that Captain Everard."

" Is he still at the Hall?"

"Yes. But I don't think it is altogether his fault.
Grannie won't let him go. I don't believe he knows
how determined auntie is not to marry him. Only, to
be sure, though grannie never lets her have more than
five shillings in her pocket at a time, she will be worth
something when she is married."

" Nothing can make her worth more than she is,
Judy," I said, perhaps with some discontent in my tone.

" That 's as you and I think, Mr Walton ; not as
grannie and the captain think at all. I daresay he would
not care much more than grannie whether she was will-
ing or not, so long as she married him."


" But, Judy, we must have some plan laid before we
reach the Hall ; else my coming will be of no use."

" Of course. I know how much I can do, and you
must arrange the rest with her. I will take you to the
little room up-stairs we call it the octagon. That you
know is just under auntie's room. They will be at din-
ner the captain and grannie. I will leave you there,
and tell auntie that you want to see her."

" But, Judy, "

' Don't you want to see her, Mr Walton 1 "

" Yes, I do ; more than you can think."

" Then I will tell her so."

" But will she come to me 1 "

" I don't know. We have to find that out."

" Very well. I leave myself in your hands."

I was now perfectly collected. All my dubitation and
distress were gone, for I had something to do, although
what I could not yet tell. That she did not love Cap-
tain Everard was plain, and that she had as yet resisted
her mother was also plain, though it was not equally
certain that she would, if left at her mercy, go on to
resist her. This was what I hoped to strengthen her to
do. I saw nothing more within my reach as yet. But
from what I knew of Miss Oldcastle, I saw plainly
enough that no greater good could be done for her than
this enabling to resistance. Self-assertion was so foreign
to her nature, that it needed a sense of duty to rouse her
even to self-defence. As I have said before, she was
clad in the mail of endurance, but was utterly without
weapons. And tneie was a danger of her conduct and


then of her mind giving way at last, from the gradual
inroads of weakness upon the thews which she left un-
exercised. In respect of this, I prayed heartily that I
might help her.

Judy and I scarcely spoke to each other from the
moment we entered the gate till I found myself at a
side door which I had never observed till now. It was
fastened, and Judy told me to wait till she went in and
opened it. The moon was now quite obscured, and I
was under no apprehension of discovery. While I stood
there I could not help thinking of Dr Duncan's story,
and reflecting that the daughter was now returning the
kindness shown to the mother.

I had not to wait long before the door opened behind
me noiselessly, and I stepped into the dark house. Judy
took me by the hand, and led me along a passage, and
then up a stair into the little drawing-room. There was
no light. She led me to a seat at the farther end, and
opening a door close beside me, left me in the dark.

There I sat so long that I fell into a fit of musing,
broken ever by startled expectation. Castle after castle
I built up ; castle after castle fell to pieces in my hands.
Still she did not come. At length I got so restless and
excited that only the darkness kept me from starting up
and pacing the room. Still she did not come, and partly
from weakness, partly from hope deferred, I found my-
self beginning to tremble all over, Nor could I control
myself. As the trembling increased, I grew alarmed lest
I should become unable to carry out all that might be


Suddenly from out of the dark a hand settled on my
arm. I looked up and could just see the whiteness of a
face. Before I could speak, a voice said brokenly, in a
half-whisper :

" Will you save me, Mr Walton? But you're trem-
bling ; you are ill ; you ought not to have come to me.
I will get you something."

And she moved to go, but I held her. All my trem-
bling was gone in a moment. Her words, so careful of
me even in her deep misery, went to my heart and gave
me strength. The suppressed feelings of many months
rushed to my lips. What I said I do not know, but I
know that I told her I loved her. And I know that she
did not draw her hand from mine when I said so.

But ere I ceased came a revulsion of feeling.

" Forgive me," I said, " I am selfishness itself to speak
to you thus now, to take advantage of your misery to
make you listen to mine. But, at least, it will make you
sure that if all I am, all I have will save you "

" But I am saved already," she interposed, " if you
love me for I love you."

And for some moments there were no words to speak.
I stood holding her hand, conscious only of God and
her. At last I said :

" There is no time now but for action. Nor do I see
anything but to go with me at once. Will you come
home to my sister? Or I will take you wherever you

' I will go with you anywhere you think best.
take me away."


" Put on your bonnet, then, and a warm cloak, and
we will settle all about it as we go."

She had scarcely left the room when Mrs Oldcastle
came to the door.

" No lights here ! " she said. " Sarah, bring candles,
and tell Captain Everard, when he will join us, to come
to the octagon room. Where can that little Judy be ?
The child gets more and more troublesome, I do think.
I must take her in hand."

I had been in great perplexity how to let her know
that I was there ; for to announce yourself to a lady by
a voice out of the darkness of her boudoir, or to wait
for candles to discover you where she thought she was
quite alone neither is a pleasant way of presenting
yourself to her consciousness. But I was helped out of
the beginning into the middle of my difficulties, once
more by that blessed little Judy. I did not know she
was in the room till I heard her voice. Nor do I yet
know how much she had heard of the conversation be-
tween her aunt and myself; for although I sometimes
see her look roguish even now that she is a middle-
aged woman with many children, when anything is said
which might be supposed to have a possible reference
to that night, I have never cared to ask her.

" Here I am, grannie," said her voice. " But I
won't be taken in hand by you or any one else. I
tell you that. So mind. And Mr Walton is here,
too, and Aunt Ethelwyn is going out with him for a
long walk."

" What do you mean, you silly child ? "


" I mean what I say," and " Miss Judy speaks the
truth," fell together from her lips and mine.

" Mr Walton," began Mrs Oldcastle, indignantly, " it
is scarcely like a gentleman to come where you are not
wanted - "

Here Judy interrupted her.

" I beg your pardon, grannie, Mr Walton was wanted
very much wanted. I went and fetched him."

But Mrs Oldcastle went on unheeding.

" - and to be sitting in my room in the dark
too ! "

" That couldn't be helped, grannie. Here comes
Sarah with candles."

" Sarah," said Mrs Oldcastle, " ask Captain Everard
to be kind enough to step this way."

" Yes, ma'am," answered Sarah, with an untranslatable
look at me as she set down the candles.

We could now see each other. Knowing words to
be but idle breath, I would not complicate matters by
speech, but stood silent, regarding Mrs Oldcastle. She
on her part did not flinch, but returned my look with
one both haughty and contemptuous. In a few mo-
ments, Captain Everard entered, bowed slightly, and
looked to Mrs Oldcastle as if for an explanation.
Whereupon she spoke, but to me.

" Mr Walton," she said, " will you explain to Captain
Everard to what we owe the unexpected pleasure of a
visit from you ? "

" Captain Everard has no claim to any explanation
from me. To you, Mrs Oldcastle, I would have an-


swered, had you asked me, that I was waiting for Miss

" Pray inform Miss Oldcastle, Judy, that Mr Walton
insists upon seeing her at once."

" That is quite unnecessary. Miss Oldcastle will be
here presently," I said.

Mrs Oldcastle turned slightly livid with wrath. She
was always white, as I have said : the change I can
describe only by the word I have used, indicating a
bluish darkening of the whiteness. She walked towards
the door beside me. I stepped between her and it

" Pardon me, Mrs Oldcastle. That is the way to
Miss Oldcastle's room. I am here to protect her."

Without saying a word she turned and looked at
Captain Everard. He advanced with a long stride of
determination. But ere he reached me, the door be-
hind me opened, and Miss Oldcastle appeared in her
bonnet and shawl, carrying a small bag in her hand.
Seeing how things were, the moment she entered, she
put her hand on my arm, and stood fronting the enemy
with me. Judy was on my right, her eyes flashing, and
her cheek as red as a peony, evidently prepared to do
battle a toute outrance for her friends.

" Miss Oldcastle, go to your room instantly, I com-
mand you," said her mother ; and she approached as if
to remove her hand from my arm. I put my other
arm between her and her daughter.

" No, Mrs Oldcastle,'' I said. " You have lost all a
mother's rights by ceasing to behave like a mother.
Miss Oldcastle will never more do anything in obedi-


ance to your commands, whatever she may do in com-
pliance with your wishes."

" Allow me to remark," said Captain Everard, with
attempted nonchalance, " that that is strange doctrine
for your cloth."

" So much the worse for my cloth, then," I answered,
"and the better for yours if it leads you to act more

Still keeping himself entrenched in the affectation of
a supercilious indifference, he smiled haughtily, and
gave a look of dramatic appeal to Mrs Oldcastle.

" At least," said that lady, " do not disgrace yourself,
Ethelwyn, by leaving the house in this unaccountable
manner at night and on foot. If you will leave the
protection of your mother's roof, wait at least till to-

" I would rather spend the night in the open air
than pass another under your roof, mother. You have
been a strange mother to me and Dorothy too ! "

" At least do not put your character in question by
going in this unmaidenly fashion. People will talk to
your prejudice and Mr Walton's too."

Ethelwyn smiled. She was now as collected as I
was, seeming to have cast off all her weakness. My
heart was uplifted more than I can say. She knew
her mother too well to be caught by the change in her

I had not hitherto interrupted her once when she
took the answer upon herself, for she was not one to
be checked when she chose to speak. But now she


answered nothing, only looked at me, and I understood
her, of course.

" They will hardly have time to do so, 1 trust, before
it will be out of their power. It rests with Miss Old-
castle herself to say when that shall be."

As if she had never suspected that such was the
result of her scheming, Mrs Oldcastle's demeanour
changed utterly. The form of her visage was altered.
She made a spring at her daughter, and seized her by
the arm.

" Then I forbid it," she screamed ; " and I -will be
obeyed. I stand on my rights. Go to your room, you

" There is no law human or divine to prevent her
from marrying whom she will How old are you,
Ethelwyn 1 "

I thought it better to seem even cooler than I was.

" Twenty-seven," answered Miss Oldcastle.

" Is it possible you can be so foolish, Mrs Oldcastle,
as to think you have the slightest hold on your
daughter's freedom ? Let her arm go."

But she kept her grasp.

" You hurt me, mother," said Miss Oldcastle.

"Hurt youl you smooth-faced hypocrite! I will
hurt you then ! "

But I took Mrs Oldcastle's arm in my hand, and she
let go her hold.

" How dare you touch a woman ? " she said.

" Because she has so far ceased to be a woman as to
torture her own daughter."


Here Captain Everard stepped forward, saying,

"The riot-act ought to be read, I think. It is time
for the military to interfere."

" Well put, Captain Everard," I said. " Our side will
disperse if you will only leave room for us to go."

" Possibly / may have something to say in the

" Say on."

" This lady has jilted me."

" Have you, Ethelwyn ? "

" I have not."

" Then, Captain Everard, you lie."

" You dare to tell me so ? "

And he strode a pace nearer.

"It needs no daring. I know you too well; and so
does another who trusted you and found you false as

" You presume on your cloth, but " he said, lift-
ing his hand.

" You may strike me, presuming on my cloth," I an-
swered; "and I will not return your blow. Insult me
as you will, and I will bear it Call me coward, and I
will say nothing. But lay one hand on me to prevent
me from doing my duty, and I knock you down or find
you more of a man than I take you for."

It was either conscience or something not so good
that made a coward of him. He turned on his heel.

" I really am not sufficiently interested in the affair to
oppose you. You may take the girl for me. Both your
cloth and the presence of ladies protect your insolence.


I do not like brawling where one cannot fight You
shall hear from me before long, Mr Walton."

" No, Captain Everard, I shall not hear from you.
You know you dare not write to me. I know that of
you which, even on the code of the duellist, would justify
any gentleman in refusing to meet you. Stand out of
my way ! "

I advanced with Miss Oldcastle on my arm. He drew
back ; and we left the room.

As we reached the door, Judy bounded after us, threw
her arms round her aunt's neck, then round mine, kiss-
ing us both, and returned to her place on the sofa. Mrs
Oldcastle gave a scream, and sunk fainting on a chair.
It was a last effort to detain her daughter and gain time.
Miss Oldcastle would have returned, but I would not
permit her.

" No," I said ; " she will be better without you. Judy,
ring the bell for Sarah."

" How dare you give orders in my house 1 " exclaimed
Mrs Oldcastle, sitting bolt upright in the chair, and
shaking her fist at us. Then assuming the heroic, she
added, " From this moment she is no daughter of mine.
Nor can you touch one farthing of her money, sir. You
have married a beggar after all, and that you '11 both
know before long."

" Thy money perish with thee ! " I said, and repented
the moment I had said it. It sounded like an impreca-
tion, and I know I had no correspondent feeling; for,
after all, she was the mother of my Ethelwyn. But the


allusion to money made me so indignant, that the words
burst from me ere I could consider their import.

The cool wind greeted us like the breath of God, as
we left the house and closed the door behind us. The
moon was shining from the edge of a vaporous moun-
tain, which gradually drew away from her, leaving her
alone in the midst of a lake of blue. But we had not
gone many paces from the house when Miss Oldcastle
began to tremble violently, and could scarcely get along
with all the help I could give her. Nor, for the space
of six weeks did one word pass between us about the
painful occurrences of that evening. For all that time
she was quite unable to bear it.

When we managed at last to reach the vicarage, I
gave her in charge to my sister, with instructions to help
her to bed at once, while I went for Dr Duncan.



FOUND the old man seated at his dinner,
which he left immediately when he heard
that Miss Oldcastle needed his help. In a
few words I told him, as we went, the story
of what had befallen at the Hall, to which he listened
with the interest of a boy reading a romance, asking
twenty questions about the particulars which I hurried
over. Then he shook me warmly by the hand, saying
" You have fairly won her, Walton, and I am as glad
of it as I could be of anything I can think of. She is
well worth all you must have suffered. This will at
length remove the curse from that wretched family.
You have saved her from perhaps even a worse fate
than her sister's."

" I fear she will be ill, though," I said, " after all that
she has gone through."
But I did not even suspect how ill she would be,


As soon as I heard Dr Duncan's opinion of her, which
was not very definite, a great fear seized upon me that
I was destined to lose her after all. This fear, however,
terrible as it was, did not torture me like the fear that
had preceded it. I could oftener feel able to say, " Thy
will be done " than I could before.

Dr Duncan was hardly out of the house when Old
Rogers arrived, and was shown into the study. He
looked excited. I allowed him to tell out his story,
which was his daughter's of course, without interruption.
He ended by saying :

" Now, sir, you really must do summat. This won't
do in a Christian country. We ain't aboard ship here
with a nor'-easter a-walkin' the quarter-deck."

" There 's no occasion, my dear old fellow, to do any-

He was taken aback.

"Well, I don't understand you, Mr Walton. You're
the last man I 'd have expected to hear argufy for faith
without works. It 's right to trust in God ; but if you
don't stand to your halliards, your craft '11 miss stoys,
and your faith '11 be blown out of the bolt-ropes in the
turn of a marlinspike."

I suspect there was some confusion in the figure, but
the old man's meaning was plain enough. Nor would I
keep him in a moment more of suspense.

" Miss Oldcastle is in the house, Old Rogers," I said.

"What house, sir?" returned the old man, his gray
eyes opening wider as he spoke.

" This house, to be sure."


I shall never forget the look the old man cast upwards,
or the reality given to it by the ordinarily odd sailor-
fashion of pulling his forelock, as he returned inward
thanks to the Father of all for His kindness to his friend.
And never in my now wide circle of readers shall I find
one, the most educated and responsive, who will listen
to my story with a more gracious interest than that old
man showed as I recounted to him the adventures of the
evening. There were few to whom I could have told
them : to Old Rogers I felt that it was right and natural
and dignified to tell the story even of my love's victory.

How then am I able to tell it to the world as now 1
I can easily explain the seeming inconsistency. It is
not merely that I am speaking, as I have said before,
from behind a screen, or as clothed in the coat of dark-
ness of an anonymous writer ; but I find that, as I come

Online LibraryGeorge MacDonald[Works] (Volume 3) → online text (page 33 of 35)