George MacDonald.

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belonged to the place, and were not too severely com-
pelled to go into the house; though, I believe, in this
house they would have been more comfortable than
they were in their own houses.

I cannot imagine a much greater misfortune for a
man, not to say a clergyman, than not to know, or
knowing, not to minister to any of the poor. And I
did not feel that I knew in the least where I was until I
had found out and conversed with almost the whole of

After I had done so, I began to think it better to
return Mrs Oldcastle's visit, though I felt greatly dis-
inclined to encounter that tight-skinned nose again, and
that mouth whose smile had no light in it, except when
it responded to some nonsense of her grand-daughter's.



[BOUT noon, on a lovely autumn day, I set
out for Oldcastle Hall. The keenness of
the air had melted away with the heat of the
sun, yet still the air was fresh and invigorat-
ing. Can any one tell me why it is that, when the earth
is renewing her youth in the spring, man should feel
feeble and low-spirited, and gaze with bowed head,
though pleased heart, on the crocuses ; whereas, on the
contrary, in the autumn, when nature is dying for the
winter, he feels strong and hopeful, holds his head erect,
and walks with a vigorous step, though the flaunting
dahlias discourage him greatly"? I do not ask for the
physical causes : those I might be able to find out for
myself; but I ask, Where is the Tightness and fitness in
the thing? Should not man and nature go together in
this world which was made for man not for science,
but for man? Perhaps I have some glimmerings of


where the answer lies. Perhaps " I see a cherub that
sees it." And in many of our questions we have to be
content with such an approximation to an answer as
this. And for my part I am content with this. With
less, I am not content.

Whatever that answer may be, I walked over the old
Gothic bridge with a heart strong enough to meet Mrs
Oldcastle without flinching. I might have to quarrel
with her I could not tell : she certainly was neither
safe nor wholesome. But this I was sure of, that I
would not quarrel with her without being quite certain
that I ought. I wish it were never one's duty to quar-
rel with anybody : I do so hate it. But not to do it
sometimes is to smile in the devil's face, and that no
one ought to do. However, I had not to quarrel this

The woods on the other side of the river from my
house, towards which I was now walking, were of the
most sombre rich colour sombre and rich, like a life
that has laid up treasure in heaven, locked in a casket
of sorrow. I came nearer and nearer to them through
the village, and approached the great iron gate with the
antediluvian monsters on the top of its stone pillars.
And awful monsters they were are still ! I see the tail
of one of them at this very moment. But they let me
through very quietly, notwithstanding their evil looks : I
thought they were saying to each other across the top of
the gate, "Never mind; he'll catch it soon enough."
But, as I said, I did not catch it that day ; and I could
not have caught it that day; it was too lovely a clay to


catch any hurt even from that most hurtful of all beings
under the sun, an unwomanly woman.

I wandered up the long winding road, through the
woods which I had remarked flanking the meadow on
my first walk up the river. These woods smelt so
sweetly their dead and dying leaves departing in sweet
odours that they quite made up for the absence of the
flowers. And the wind no, there was no wind there
was only a memory of wind that woke now and then in
the bosom of the wood, shook down a few leaves, like
the thoughts that flutter away in sighs, and then was still

I am getting old, as I told you, my friends. (See
there, you seem my friends already. Do not despise an
old man because he cannot help loving people he never
saw or even heard of.) I say I am getting old (is it
but or therefore ? I do not know which) but, therefore,
I shall never forget that one autumn day in those grandly
fading woods.

Up the slope of the hillside they rose like one great
rainbow-billow of foliage bright yellow, red-rusty and
bright fading green, all kinds and shades of brown and
purple. Multitudes of leaves lay on the sides of the
path, so many that I betook myself to my old childish
amusement of walking in them without lifting my feet,
driving whole armies of them with ocean-like rustling
before me. I did not do so as I came back. I walked
m the middle of the way then, and I remember stepping
over many single leaves, in a kind of mechanico-merciful
way, as if they had been living creatures as indeed who


can tell but they are, only they must be pretty nearly
dead when they are on the ground.

At length the road brought me up to the house. It
did not look such a large house as I have since found it
to be. And it certainly was not an interesting house
from the outside, though its surroundings of green grass
and trees would make any whole beautiful Indeed the
house itself tried hard to look ugly, not quite succeed-
ing, only because of the kind foiling of its efforts by the
Virginia creepers and ivy, which, as if ashamed of its
staring countenance, did all they could to spread their
hands over it and hide it. But there was one charming
group of old chimneys, belonging to some portion be-
hind, which indicated a very different, namely, a very
much older, face upon the house once a face that had
passed away to give place to this. Once inside, I found
there were more remains of the olden time than I had
expected. I was led up one of those grand square oak
staircases, which look like a portion of the house to be
dwelt in, and not like a ladder for getting from one part
of the habitable regions to another. On the top was a
fine expanse of landing, another hall, in fact, from which
I was led towards the back of the house by a narrow
passage, and shown into a small dark drawing-room
with a deep stone-mullioned window, wainscoted in oak
simply carved and panelled. Several doors around in-
dicated communication with other parts of the house.
Here I found Mrs Oldcastle, reading what I judged to
be one of the cheap and gaudy religious books of the
present day, She rose and received me, and having mo-


tioned me to a seat, began to talk about the parish.
You would have perceived at once from her tone that
she recognised no other bond of connexion between us
but the parish.

" I hear you have been most kind in visiting the poor,
Mr Walton. You must take care that they don't take
advantage of your kindness, though. I assure you, you
will find some of them very grasping indeed. And you
need not expect that they will give you the least credit
for good intentions."

" I have seen nothing yet to make me uneasy on that
score. But certainly my testimony is of no weight yet."

" Mine is. I have proved them. The poor of this
neighbourhood are very deficient in gratitude."

" Yes, grannie, "

I started. But there was no interruption, such as I
have made to indicate my surprise; although, when 1
looked half round in the direction whence the voice
came, the words that followed were all rippled with a
sweet laugh of amusement.

" Yes, grannie, you are right You remember how
old dame Hope wouldn't take the money you offered
her, and dropped such a disdainful courtesy. It was so
greedy of her, wasn't it 1 ?"

" I am sorry to hear of any disdainful reception of
kindness," I said.

" Yes, and she had the coolness, within a fortnight, to
send up to me and ask if I would be kind enough to
lend her half-a-crown for a few weeks."

" And then it was your turn, grannie ! You sent her


five shillings, didn't you 1 Oh no ; I 'm wrong. That
was the other woman."

" Indeed, I did not send her anything but a rebuke.
I told her that it would be a very wrong thing in me to
contribute to the support of such an evil spirit of un-
thankfulness as she indulged in. When she came to see
her conduct in its true light, and confessed that she had
behaved very abominably, I would see what I could do
for her."

" And meantime she was served out, wasn't she ?
With her sick boy at home, and nothing to give him ?"
said Miss Gladwyn.

" She made her own bed, and had to lie on it"

" Don't you think a little kindness might have had
more effect in bringing her to see that she was wrong."

"Grannie doesn't believe in kindness, except to me
dear old grannie ! She spoils me. I ''m sure I shall be
ungrateful some day; and then she'll begin to read me
long lectures, and prick me with all manner of headless
pins. But I won't stand it, I .can tell you, grannie ! I'm
too much spoiled for that."

Mrs Oldcastle was silent why, I could not tell, except
it was that she knew she had no chance of quieting the
girl in any other way.

I may mention here, lest I should have no opportunity
afterwards, that I inquired of ilame Hope as to her
/ersion of the story, and found that there had been a
great misunderstanding, as I had suspected. She was
really in no want at the time, and did not feel that it
would be quite honourable to take the money when she


did not need it (some poor people are capable of such
reasoning) and so had refused it, not without a feeling
at the same time that it was more pleasant to refuse than
to accept from such a giver j some stray sparkle of which
feeling, discovered by the keen eye of Miss Gladwyn,
may have given that appearance of disdain to her cour-
tesy to which the girl alluded. When, however, her boy
in service was brought home ill, she had sent to ask for
what she now required, on the very ground that it had
been offered to her before. The misunderstanding had
arisen from the total incapacity of Mrs Oldcastle to
enter sympathetically into the feelings of one as superior
to herself in character as she was inferior in worldly

But to return to Oldcastle Hall.

I wished to change the subject, knowing that blind
defence is of no use. One must have definite points for
defence, if one has not a thorough understanding of the
character in question; and I had neither.

" This is a beautiful old house," I said. " There must
be strange places about it."

Mrs Oldcastle had not time to reply, or at least did
not reply, before Miss Gladwyn said

" Oh, Mr Walton, have you looked out of the window
yet ^ You don't know what a lovely place this is, if you

And as she spoke she emerged from a recess in the
room, a kind of dark alcove, where she had been amus-
ing herself with what I took to be some sort of puzzle,
but which I found afterwards to be the bit and curb-


chain of her pony's bridle which she was polishing up
to her own bright mind, because the stable-boy had not
pleased her in the matter, and she wanted both to get
them brilliant and to shame the lad for the future. I
followed her to the window, where I was indeed as much
surprised and pleased as she could have wished.

"There!" she said, holding back one of the dingy
heavy curtains with her small childish hand.

And there, indeed, I saw an astonishment. It did
not lie in the lovely sweeps of hill and hollow stretching
away to the horizon, richly wooded, and though I saw
none of them sprinkled, certainly with sweet villages
full of human thoughts, loves, and hopes; the astonish-
ment did not lie in this though all this was really much
more beautiful to the higher imagination but in the fact
that, at the first glance, I had a vision properly belonging
to a rugged or mountainous country. For I had ap-
proached the house by a gentle slope, which certainly
was long and winding, but had occasioned no feeling in
my mind that I had reached any considerable height.
And I had come up that one beautiful staircase; no
more; and yet now, when I looked from this window, I
found myself on the edge of a precipice not a very
deep one, certainly, yet with all the effect of many a
deeper. For below the house on this side lay a great
hollow, with steep sides, up which, as far as they could
reach, the trees were climbing. The sides were not all
so steep as the one on which the house stood, but they
were all rocky and steep, with here and there slopes of
green grass. And down in the bottom, in the centre ol


the hollow, lay a pool of water. I knew it only by its
slaty shimmer through the fading green of the tree-tops
between me and it

"There !" again exclaimed Miss Gladwyn; "isn't that
beautiful? But you haven't seen the most beautiful
thing yet. Grannie, where 's ah ! there she is ! There 's
auntie ! Don't you see her down there, by the side of
the pond? That pond is a hundred feet deep. If
auntie were to fall in she would be drowned before you
could jump down to get her out Can you swim?"

Before I had time to answer, she was off again.

"Don't you see auntie down there?"

" No, I don't see her. I have been trying very hard
but I can't."

" Well, I daresay you can't. Nobody, I think, has
got eyes but myself. Do you see a big stone by the
edge of the pond, with another stone on the top of it,
like a big potato with a little one grown out of it?"

" No."

" Well, auntie is under the trees on the opposite side
from that stone. Do you see her yet ?"

" No."

" Then you must come down with me, and I will in-
troduce you to her. She 's much the prettiest thing here.
Much prettier than grannie."

Here she looked over her shoulder at grannie, who,
instead of being angry, as, from what I had seen on our
former interview, I feared she would be, only said, with-
out even looking up from the little blue-boarded book
she was again reading


" You are a saucy child.**

Whereupon Miss Gladwyn laughed merrily.

" Come along," she said, and, seizing me by the hand,
led me out of the room, down a back-staircase, across a
piece of grass, and then down a stair in the face of the
rock, towards the pond below. The stair went in zigzags,
and, although rough, was protected by an iron balus-
trade, without which, indeed, it would have been very

" Isn't your grandmamma afraid to let you run up and
down here, Miss Gladwyn?" I said.

" Mel" she exclaimed, apparently in the utmost sur-
prise. " That would be fun ! For, you know, if she
tried to hinder me but she knows it 's no use ; I taught
her that long ago let me see, how long : oh ! I don't
know I should think it must be ten years at least. I
ran away, and they thought I had drowned myself in the
pond. And I saw them, all the time, poking with a long
stick in the pond, which, if I had been drowned there,
never could have brought me up, for it is a hundred feet
deep, I am sure. How I hurt my sides trying to keep
from screaming with laughter ! I fancied I heard one say
to the other, ' We must wait till she swells and floats?'"

" Dear me ! what a peculiar child i" I said to myself.

And yet somehow, whatever she said even when she
was most rude to her grandmother she was never offen-
sive. No one could have helped feeling all the time
that she was a little lady. I thought I would venture a
question with her. I stood still at a turn of the zigzag,
and looked down into the hollow, still a good way be-


low us, where I could now distinguish the form, on the
opposite side of the pond, of a woman seated at the foot
of a tree, and stooping forward over a book.

" May I ask you a question, Miss Gladwyn 1"

" Yes, twenty, if you like ; but I won't answer one of
them till you give up calling me Miss Gladwyn. We
can't be friends, you know, so long as you do that.''

" What am I to call you, then ? I never heard you
called by any other name than Pet, and that would
hardly do, would itt"

" Oh, just fancy if you called me Pet before grannie !
That 's grannie's name for me, and nobody dares to use
it but grannie not even auntie ; for, between you and
me, auntie is afraid of grannie ; I can't think why. I
never was afraid of anybody except, yes, a little afraid
of old Sarah. She used to be my nurse, you know ; and
grandmamma and everybody is afraid of her, and that 's
just why I never do one thing she wants me to do. It
would never do to give in to being afraid of her, you
know. There 's auntie, you see, down there, just where
I told you before."

" Oh yes ! I see her now. What does your aunt call
you, then?"

"Why, what you must call me my own name, of

" What is that 1"

" Judy."

She said it in a tone which seemed to indicate sur-
prise that I should not know her name perhaps read
it off her face, as one ought to know a flower's name by


looking at it. But she added instantly, glancing up in
my face most comically

" I wish yours was Punch."

"Why, Judy?"

"It would be such fun, you know. M

" Well, it would be odd, I must confess. What is
your aunt's name?"

" Oh, such a funny namfc ! much funnier than Judy :
Ethelwyn. It sounds as if it ought to mean something,
doesn't it?"

" Yes. It is an Anglo-Saxon word, without doubt."

" What does it mean ?"

" I 'm not sure about that. I will try to find out
when I go home if you would like to know."

" Yes, that I should. I should like to know every-
thing about auntie. Ethelwyn. Isn't it pretty ?"

" So pretty that I should like to know something
more about Aunt Ethelwyn. What is her other name ?"

" Why, Ethelwyn Oldcastle, to be sure. What else
could it be?

" Why, you know, for anything I knew, Judy, it might
have been Gladwyn. She might have been your father's

"Might she? I never thought of that. Oh, I sup-
pose that is because I never think about my father.
And now I do think of it, I wonder why nobody ever
mentions him to me, or my mother either. But I often
think auntie must be thinking about my mother. Some-
thing in her eyes, when they are sadder than usual,
seems to remind me of my mother."


"You remember your mother, then?"

" No, I don't think I ever saw her. But I Ve answered
plenty of questions, haven't I? I assure you, if you
want to get me on to the Catechism, I don't know a
word of it. Come along."

I laughed.

"What!" she said, pulling me by the hand, "you a
clergyman, and laugh at the Catechism ! I didn't know

" I 'm not laughing at the Catechism, Judy. I 'm only
laughing at the idea of putting Catechism questions to

" You know I didn't mean it," she said, with some in-

" I know now," I answered. " But you haven't let
me put the only question I wanted to put."

"What is it?"

" How old are you?"

" Twelve. Come along."

And away we went down the rest of the stair.

When we reached the bottom, a winding path led us
through the trees to the side of the pond, along which
we passed to get to the other side.

And then all at once the thought struck me why
was it that I had never seen this auntie, with the lovely
name, at church 1 Was she going to turn out another
strange parishioner?

There she sat, intent on her book. As we drew near
she looked up and rose, but did not come forward.

" Aunt Winnie, here 's Mr Walton," said Judy.


I lifted ray hat and held out my hand. Before our
hands met. however, a tremendous splash reached my
ears from the pond. I started round. Judy had van-
ished. I had my coat half off, and was rushing to the
pool, when Miss Oldcastle stopped me, her face un-
moved, except by a smile, saying, " It 's only one of that
frolicsome child's tricks, Mr Walton. It is well for you
that I was here, though. Nothing would have delighted
her more than to have you in the water too."

" But," I said, bewildered, and not half comprehend-
ing, " where is she ? "

" There," returned Miss Oldcastle, pointing to the
pool, in the middle of which arose a heaving and bub-
bling, presently yielding passage to the laughing face of

" Why don't you help me out, Mr Walton ? You said
you could swim."

" No, I did not," I answered coolly. " You talked
so fast, you did not give me time to say so."

" It 's very cold," she returned.

" Come out, Judy dear," said her aunt. " Run home
and change your clothes. There 's a dear."

Judy swam to the opposite side, scrambled out, and
was off like a spaniel through the trees and up the stairs,
dripping and raining as she went

" You must be very much astonished at the little
creature, Mr Walton."

" I find her very interesting. Quite a study."

" There never was a child so spoiled, and never a
child on whom it took less effect to hurt her. I suppose


such things do happen sometimes. She is really a good
girl ; though mamma, who has done all the spoiling, will
not allow me to say she is good."

Here followed a pause, for, Judy disposed of, what
should I say next 1 And the moment her mind turned
from Judy, I saw a certain stillness not a cloud, but
the shadow of a cloud come over Miss Oldcastle's face,
as if she, too, found herself uncomfortable, and did not
know what to say next. I tried to get a glance at the
book in her hand, for I should know something about
her at once if I could only see what she was reading.
She never came to church, and I wanted to arrive at
some notion of the source of her spiritual life ; for that
she had such, a single glance at her face was enough to
convince me. This, I mean, made me even anxious to
see what the book was. But I could only discover that
it was an old book in very shabby binding, not in the
least like the books that young ladies generally have in
their hands.

And now my readers will possibly be thinking it odd
that I have never yet said a word about what either
Judy or Miss Oldcastle was like. If there is one thing
I feel more inadequate to than another, in taking upon
me to relate it is to describe a lady. But I will try
the girl first.

Judy was rosy, gray -eyed, auburn -haired, sweet-
mouthed. She had confidence in her chin, assertion
in her nose, defiance in her eyebrows, honesty and
friendliness over all her face. No one, evidently, could
have a warmer friend ; and to an enemy she would be


dangerous no longer than a fit of passion might last
There was nothing acrid in her ; and the reason, I pre-
sume, was, that she had never yet hurt her conscience.
That is a very different thing from saying she had never
done wrong, you know. She was not tall, even for her
age, and just a little too plump for the immediate sug-
gestion of grace. Yet every motion of the child would
have been graceful, except for the fact that impulse was
a 'ways predominant, giving a certain jerkiness, like the
hopping of a bird, instead of the gliding of one motion
into another, such as you might see in the same bird on
the wing.

There is one of the ladies.

But the other how shall I attempt to describe her?

The first thing I felt was, that she was a lady-woman.
And to feel that is almost to fall in love at first sight.
And out of this whole, the first thing you distinguished
would be the grace over all. She was rather slender,
rather tall, rather dark-haired, and quite blue-eyed. But
] assure you it was not upon that occasion that I
found out the colour of her eyes. I was so taken
with her whole that I knew nothing about her parts.
Yet she was blue-eyed, indicating northern extraction
some centuries back perhaps. That blue was the
blue of the sea that had sunk through the eyes of
some sea-rover's wife and settled in those of her child,
to be born when the voyage was over. It had been
dyed so deep ingrayne, as Spenser would say, that it
had never been worn from the souls of the race since,
and so was every now and then shining like heaven


out at some of its eyes. Her features were what is
called regular. They were delicate and brave. After
the grace, the dignity was the next thing you came to
discover. And the only thing you would not have liked,
you would have discovered last For when the shine of
the courtesy with which she received me had faded
away, a certain look of negative haughtiness, of with,
drawal, if not of repulsion, took its place, a look of con-
sciousness of her own high breeding a pride, not of
life, but of circumstance of life, which disappointed me
in the midst of so much that was very lovely. Her
voice was sweet, and I could have fancied a tinge of

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