George MacDonald.

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sadness in it, to which impression her slowness of
speech, without any drawl in it, contributed. But I
am not doing well as an artist in describing her so fully
before my reader has become in the least degree inter-
ested in her. I was seeing her, and no words can make
him see her.

Fearing lest some such fancy as had possessed Judy
should be moving in her mind, namely, that I was, if
not exactly going to put her through her Catechism, yet
going in some way or other to act the clergyman, I has-
tened to speak.

" This is a most romantic spot, Miss Oldcastle," I
said ; " and as surprising as it is romantic. I could
hardly believe my eyes when I looked out of the window
and saw it first."

" Your surprise was the more natural that the place
itself is not properly natural, as you must have dis-


This was rather a remarkable speech for a young lady
to make. I answered

" I only know that such a chasm is the last thing I
should have expected to find in this gently undulating
country. That it is artificial I was no more prepared
to hear than I was to see the place itself."

" It looks pretty, but it has not a very poetic origin,"
she returned. " It is nothing but the quarry out of
which the old house at the top of it was built"

" I must venture to differ from you entirely in the
aspect such an origin assumes to me," I said. " It
seems to me a more poetic origin than any convulsion
of nature whatever would have been ; for, look you," I
said being as a young man too much inclined to the
didactic, " for, look you," I said and she did look at
me " from that buried mass of rock has arisen this
living house with its histories of ages and generations ;
and "

Here I saw a change pass upon her face : it grew
almost pallid. But her large blue eyes were still fixed
on mine.

" And it seems to me," I went on, " that such a chasm
made by the uplifting of a house therefrom, is therefore
in itself more poetic than if it were even the mouth of
an extinct volcano. For, grand as the motions and
deeds of Nature are, terrible as is the idea of the fiery
heart of the earth breaking out in convulsions, yet here
is something greater; for human will, human thought,
human hands in human labour and effort, have all been
employed to build this house, making not only the house


beautiful, but the place whence it came beautiful too.
It stands on the edge of what Shelley would call its
' antenatal tomb' now beautiful enough to be its mother
filled from generation to generation "

Her face had grown still paler, and her lips moved as
if she would speak; but no sound came from them. I
had gone on, thinking it best to take no notice of her
paleness ; but now I could not help expressing concern.

" I am afraid you feel ill, Miss Oldcastle."

" Not at all," she answered, more quickly than she
had yet spoken.

"This place must be damp," I said. "I fear you
have taken cold."

She drew herself up a little haughtily, thinking, no
doubt, that after her denial I was improperly pressing
the point. So I drew back to the subject of our con-

" But I can hardly think," I said, " that all this mass
of stone could be required to build the house, large as it
is. A house is not solid, you know."

" No," she answered. " The original building was
more of a castle, with walls and battlements. I can
show you the foundations of them still ; and the picture,
too, of vhat the place used to be. We are not what we
were then. Many a cottage, too, has been built out of
this old quarry. Not a stone has been taken from it for
the last fifty years, though. Just let me show you one
thing, Mr Walton, and then I must leave you."

" Do not let me detain you a moment. I will go at
once," I said; "though, if you would allow me, I should


be more at ease if I might see you safe at the top of the
stair first"

She smiled.

"Indeed, I am not ill," she answered; "but I have
duties to attend to. Just let me show you this, and then
you shall go with me back to mamma."

She led the way to the edge of the pond and looked
into it. I followed, and gazed down into its depths, till
my sight was lost in them. I could see no bottom to
the rocky shaft

" There is a strong spring down there," she said.
" Is it not a dreadful place 1 Such a depth !"

"Yes," I answered; "but it has not the horror of
dirty water; it is as clear as crystal. How does the
surplus escape 7"

" On the opposite side of the hill you came up there
is a well, with a strong stream from it into the river."

" I almost wonder at your choosing such a place to
read in. I should hardly like to be so near this pond,"
said I, laughing.

"Judy has taken all that away. Nothing in nature,
and everything out of it, is strange to Judy, poor child !
But just look down a little way into the water ou this
side. Do you see anything?"

" Nothing," I answered.

" Look again, against the wall of the pond," she

" I see a kind of arch or opening in the side," I

"That is what I wanted you to see. Now, do you


see a little barred window, there, in the face of the rock,
through the trees'?"

" I cannot say I do," I replied.

" No. Except you know where it is and even then
it is not so easy to find it I find it by certain trees."

"What is it?"

" It is the window of a little room in the rock, from
which a stair leads down through the rock to a sloping
passage. That is the end of it you see under the water."

" Provided, no doubt," I said, " in case of siege, to
procure water."

"Most likely; but not, therefore, confined to that
purpose. There are more dreadful stories than I can
bear to think of"

Here she paused abruptly, and began anew.

" As if that house had brought death and doom

out of the earth with it. There was an old burial-ground
here before the Hall was built"

" Have you ever been down the stair you speak of?"
I asked.

" Only part of the way," she answered. " But Judy
knows every step of it If it were not that the door at
the top is locked, she would have dived through that
archway now, and been in her own room in half the
time. The child does not know what fear means."

We now moved away from the pond, towards the side
of the quarry and the open-air stair-case, which I thought
must be considerably more pleasant than the other. I
confess I longed to see the gleam of that water at the
bottom of the dark sloping passage, though.


Miss Oldcastle accompanied me to the room where I
had left her mother, and took her leave with merely a
bow of farewell. I saw the old lady glance sharply from
her to me as if she were jealous of what we might have
been talking about.

" Grannie, are you afraid Mr Walton has been saying
pretty things to Aunt Winnie 1 I assure you he is not
of that sort. He doesn't understand that kind of thing.
But he would have jumped into the pond after me and
got his death of cold if auntie would have let him. It
was cold. I think I see you dripping now, Mr Walton."

There she was in her dark corner, coiled up on a
couch, and laughing heartily ; but all as if she had done
nothing extraordinary. And, indeed, estimated either by
her own notions or practices, what she had done was
not in the least extraordinary.

Disinclined to stay any longer, I shook hands with
the grandmother, with a certain invincible sense of slime,
and with the grandchild with a feeling of mischievous
health, as if the girl might soon corrupt the clergyman
into a partnership in pranks as well as in friendship.
She followed me out of the room, and danced before
me down the oak staircase, clearing the portion from
the first landing at a bound. Then she turned and
waited for me, who came very deliberately, feeling the
unsure contact of sole and wax. As soon as I reached
her, she said, in a half-whisper, reaching up towards me
on tiptoe

" Isn't she a beauty?"

"Who? your grandmamma ?" I returned.


She gave me a little push, her face glowing with fun.
But I did not expect she would take her revenge as she

" Yes, of course," she answered, quite gravely. " Isn't
she a beauty?"

And then, seeing that she had put me Jwrs de combat,
she burst into loud laughter, and, opening the hall-door
for me, let me go without another word.

I went home very quietly, and, as I said, stepping
with curious care of which, of course, I did not think
at the time over the yellow and brown leaves that lay
in the middle of the road.



WENT home very quietly, as I say, thinking
about the strange elements that not only
combine to make life, but must be combined
in our idea of life, before we can form a true
theory about it. Now-a-days, the vulgar notion of what
is life-like in any annals is to be realised by sternly ex-
cluding everything but the commonplace; and the means,
at least, are often attained, with this much of the end as
well that the appearance life bears to vulgar minds is
represented with a wonderful degree of success. But I
believe that this is, at least, quite as unreal a mode of
representing life as the other extreme, wherein the un-
likely, the romantic, and the uncommon predominate.
I doubt whether there is a single history if one could
only get at the whole of it in which there is not a con-
siderable admixture of the unlikely become fact, includ-
ing a few strange coincidences; of the uncommon,


which, although striking at first, has grown common
from familiarity with its presence as our own ; with even,
at least, some one more or less rosy touch of what we
call the romantic. My own conviction is, that the
poetry is far the deepest in us, and that the prose is
only broken-down poetry ; and likewise that to this our
lives correspond. The poetic region is the true one,
and just, therefore, the incredible one to the lower order
of mind ; for although every mind is capable of the
truth, or rather capable of becoming capable of the
truth, there may lie ages between its capacity and the
truth. As you will hear some people read poetry so
that no mortal could tell it was poetry, so do some
people read their own lives and those of others.

I fell into these reflections from comparing in my own
mind my former experiences in visiting my parishioners
with those of that day. True, I had never sat down to
talk with one of them without finding that that man or
that woman had actually a history, the most marvellous
and important fact to a human being ; nay, I had found
something more or less remarkable in every one of their
histories, so that I was more than barely interested in
each of them. And as I made more acquaintance with
them, (for I had not been in the position, or the disposi-
tion either, before I came to Marshmallovvs, necessary
to the gathering of such experiences,) I came to the
conclusion not that I had got into an extraordinary
parish of characters but that every parish must be
more or less extraordinary from the same cause. Why
did I not use to see such people about me before?


Surely I had undergone a change of some sort. Could
it be, that the trouble I had been going through of late,
had opened the eyes of my mind to the understanding,
or rather the simple seeing, of my fellow-men 1

But the people among whom I had been to-day be-
longed rather to such as might be put into a romantic
story. Certainly I could not see much that was roman-
tic in the old lady ; and yet, those eyes and that tight-
skjnned face what might they not be capable of in the
working out of a story ? And then the place they lived
in ! Why, it would hardly come into my ideas of a
nineteenth-century country parish at all. I was tempted
to try to persuade myself that all that had happened,
since I rose to look out of the window in the old house,
had been but a dream. For how could that wooded
dell have come there after all ] It was much too large
for a quarry. And that madcap girl she never Hung
herself into the pond ! it could not be. And what
could the book have been that the lady with the sea-blue
eyes was reading 1 Was that a real book at all ? No.
Yes. Of course it was. But what was it ? What had
that to do with the matter ? It might turn out to be a very
commonplace book after all. No; for commonplace
books are generally new, or at least in fine bindings.
And here was a shabby little old book, such as, if it had
been commonplace, would not have been likely to be the
companion of a young lady at the bottom of a quarry

" A savage place, as holy and enchanted
As e'er l>eneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover."


I know all this will sound ridiculous, especially that
quotation from Kubla Khan coming after the close of
the preceding sentence ; but it is only so much the more
like the jumble of thoughts that made a chaos of my
mind as I went home. And then for that terrible pool,
and subterranean passage, and all that what had it all
to do with this broad daylight, and these dying autumn
leaves? No doubt there had been such places. No
doubt there were such places somewhere yet. No doubt
this was one of them. But, somehow or other, it would
not come in well. I had no intention of going in for
that is the phrase now going in for the romantic. I
would take the impression off by going to see Weir the
carpenter's old father. Whether my plan was successful
or not, I shall leave my reader to judge.

I found Weir busy as usual, but not with a coffin this
time. He was working at a window-sash. " Just like
life," I thought tritely perhaps. " The other day he
was closing up in the outer darkness, and now he is let-
ting in the light."

" It 's a long time since you was here last, sir," he
said, but without a smile.

Did he mean a reproach 1 If so, I was more glad of
that reproach than I would have been of the warmest
welcome, even from Old Rogers. The fact was that,
having a good deal to attend to besides, and willing at
the same time to let the man feel that he was in no
danger of being bored by my visits, I had not made use
even of my reserve in the shape of a visit to his father.

" Well," I answered, " I wanted to know something


about all my people, before I paid a second visit to any
of them."

" All right, sir. Don't suppose I meant to complain.
Only to let you know you was welcome, sir."

" I 've just come from my first visit to Oldcastle Hall.
And, to tell the truth, for I don't like pretences, my visit
to-day was not so much to you as to your father, whom,
perhaps, I ought to have called upon before, only I was
afraid of seeming to intrude upon you, seeing we don't
exactly think the same way about some things," I added
with a smile, I know, which was none the less genuine
that I remember it yet.

And what makes me remember it yet ? It is the smile
that lighted up his face in response to mine. For it was
more than I looked for. And his answer helped to fix
the smile in my memory.

" You made me think, sir, that perhaps, after all, we
were much of the same way of thinking, only perhaps
you was a long way ahead of me."

Now the man was not right in saying that we were
much of the same way of thinking ; for our opinions
could hardly do more than come within sight of each
other ; but what he meant was right enough. For I was
certain, from the first, that the man had a regard for the
downright, honest way of things, and I hoped that I too
had such a regard. How much of selfishness and of
pride in one's own judgment might be mixed up with it,
both in his case and mine, I had been too often taken
in by myself, I mean to be at all careful to discrimi-
"ite, provided there was a proportion of real honesty


along with it, which, I felt sure, would ultimately elimi-
nate the other. For in the moral nest, it is not as with
the sparrow and the cuckoo. The right, the original
inhabitant is the stronger ; and, however unlikely at any
given point in the history it may be, the sparrow will
grow strong enough to heave the intruding cuckoe over-
board. So I was pleased that the man should do me
the honour of thinking I was right as far as he could see,
which is the greatest honour one man can do another ;
for it is setting him on his own steed, as the eastern
tyrants used to do. And I was delighted to think that
the road lay open for further and more real communion
between us in time to come.

" Well," I answered, " I think we shall understand
each other perfectly before long. But now I must see
your father, if it is convenient and agreeable."

" My father will be delighted to see you, I know, sir.
He can't get so far as the church on Sundays; but you'll
find him much more to your mind than me. He 's been
putting ever so many questions to me about the new
parson, wanting me to try whether I couldn't get more
out of you than the old parson. That 's the way we talk
about you, you see, sir. You '11 understand. And I 've
never told him that I 'd been to church since you came
I suppose from a bit of pride, because I had so long
refused to go ; but I don't doubt some of the neighbours
have told him, for he never speaks about it now. And
I know he 's been looking out for you ; and I fancy he 's
begun to wonder that the parson was going to see every-
body but him. It will be a pleasure to the old man, sir,


for he don't see a great many to talk to ; and he 's fond
of a bit of gossip, is the old man, sir."

So saying, Weir led the way through the shop into a
lobby behind, and thence up what must have been a
back-stair of the old house, into a large room over the
workshop. There were bits of old carving about the
walls of the room yet, but, as in the shop below, all had
been whitewashed. At one end stood a bed with chintz
curtains and a warm-looking counterpane of rich faded
embroidery. There was a bit of carpet by the bedside,
and another bit in front of the fire ; and there the old
man sat, on one side, in a high-backed not very easy-
looking chair. With a great effort he managed to rise
as I approached him, notwithstanding my entreaties that
he would not move. He looked much older when on
his feet, for he was bent nearly double, in which posture
the marvel was how he could walk at all. For he did
totter a few steps to meet me, without even the aid of a
stick, and, holding out a thin, shaking hand, welcomed
me with an air of breeding rarely to be met with in his
station in society. But the chief part of this polish
sprung from the inbred kindliness of his nature, which
was manifest in the expression of his noble old coun-
tenance. Age is such a different thing in different
natures ! One man seems to grow more and more self-
ish as he grows older ; and in another the slow fire of
time seems only to consume, with fine, imperceptible
gradations, the yet lingering selfishness in him, letting
the light of the kingdom, which the Lord says is within,
shine out more and inure, as the husk grows thin and is


ready to fall oft", that the man, like the seed sown, may
pierce the earth of this world, and rise into the pure air
and wind and dew of the second life. The face of a
loving old man is always to me like a morning moon,
reflecting the yet unrisen sun of the other world, yet
fading before its approaching light, until, when it does
rise, it pales and withers away from our gaze, absorbed
in the source of its own beauty. This old man, you
may see, took my fancy wonderfully, for even at this
distance of time, when I am old myself, the recollection
of his beautiful old face makes me feel as if I could
write poetry about him.

" I 'm blithe to see ye, sir," said he. " Sit ye down,

And, turning, he pointed to his own easy-chair; and
I then saw his profile. It was delicate as that of Dante,
which in form it marvellously resembled. But all the
sternness which Dante's evil times had generated in his
prophetic face was in this old man's replaced by a sweet-
ness of hope that was lovely to behold.

" No, Mr Weir," I said, " I cannot take your chair.
The Bible tells us to rise up before the aged, not to turn
them out of their seats."

" It would do me good to see you sitting in my cheer,
sir. The pains that my son Tom there takes to keep it
up as long as the old man may want it ! It 's a good
thing I bred him to the joiner's trade, sir. Sit ye down,
sir. The cheer '11 hold ye, though I warrant it won't
last that long after I be gone home. Sit ye down, sir."

Thus entreated, I hesitated no longer but took the


old man's seat. His son brought another chair for him,
and he sat down opposite the fire and close to me.
Thomas then went back to his work, leaving us alone.

" Ye 've had some speech wi' my son Tom," said
the old man, the moment he was gone, leaning a little
towards me. " It's main kind o' you, sir, to take up
kindly wi' poor folks like us."

" You don't say it's kind of a person to do what he
likes best," I answered. " Besides, it 's my duty to know
all my people."

"Oh yes, sir, I know that. But there's a thousand
ways ov doin' the same thing. I ha' seen folks, parsons
and others, 'at made a great show ov bein' friendly to
the poor, ye know, sir ; and all the time you could see,
or if you couldn't see you could tell without seein', that
they didn't much regard them in their hearts ; but it was
a sort of accomplishment to be able to talk to the poor,
like, after their own fashion. But the minute an ould
man sees you, sir, he believes that you mean it, sir, what-
ever it is. For an ould man somehow comes to know
things like a child. They call it a second childhood,
don't they, sir ? And there are some things worth growin 1
a child again to get a hould ov again."

" I only hope what you say may be true about me,
I mean."

" Take my word for it, sir. You have no idea how
that boy of mine, Tom there, did hate all the clergy till
you come. Not that he 1 s anyway favourable to them
yet, only he'll say nothin' again' you, sir. He's got an
unfortunate gift o' serin' all the faults first, sir; and


when a man is that way given, the faults always hides
the other side, so that there 's nothing but faults to be

" But I find Thomas quite open to reason."

" That 's because you understand him, sir, and know
how to give him head. He tould me of the talk you
had with him. You don't bait him. You don't say,
' You must come along wi' me,' but you turns and goes
along wi' him. He 's not a bad fellow at all, is Tom ;
but he will have the reason for everythink. Now I
never did want the reason for everything. I was con-
tent to be tould a many things. But Tom, you see, he
was born with a sore bit in him somewheres, I don't
rightly know wheres ; and I don't think he rightly knows
what 's the matter with him himself."

" I dare say you have a guess though, by this time,
Mr Weir," I said ; " and I think I have a guess too."

" Well, sir, if he 'd only give in, I think he would be
far happier. But he can't see his way clear."

" You must give him time, you know. The fact is, he
doesn't feel at home yet. And how can he, so long as
he doesn't know his own Father ?"

" I 'm not sure that I rightly understand you," said the
old man, looking bewildered and curious.

" I mean," I answered, " that till a man knows that
he is one of God's family, living in God's house, with
God up-stairs, as it were, while he is at his work or his
play in a nursery below-stairs, he can't feel comfortable.
For a man could not be made that should stand alone,
like some of the beasts. A man must feel a head ovei


him, because he's not enough to satisfy himself, you
know. Thomas just wants faith ; that is, he wants to
feel that there is a loving Father over him, who is doing
things all well and right, if we could only understand
them, though it really does not look like it sometimes."

" Ah, sir, I might have understood you well enough,
if my poor old head hadn't been started on a wrong
track. For I fancied for the moment that you were just
putting your finger upon the sore place in Tom's mind.
There's no use in keeping family misfortunes from a
friend like you, sir. That boy has known his father all
his life; but I was nearly half his age before I knew

" Strange ! " I said, involuntarily almost

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