George MacDonald.

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" Yes, sir ; strange you may well say. A strange story
it is. The Lord help my mother ! I beg yer pardon,
sir. I 'm no Catholic. But that prayer will come of it-
self sometimes. As if it could be of any use now ! God
forgive me ! ''

" Don't you be afraid, Mr Weir, as if God was ready
to take offence at what comes naturally, as you say. An
ejaculation of love is not likely to offend Him who is so
grand that He is always meek and lowly of heart, and
whose love is such that ours is a mere faint light 'a
little glooming light much like a shade' as one of our
own poets says, beside it."

" Thank you, Mr Walton. That 's a real comfortable
word, sir. And I am heart-sure it 's true, sir. God be
praised for evermore ! He is good, sir ; as I have
known in my poor time, sir. I don't believe there ever


was one that just lifted his eyes and looked up'ards, in-
stead of looking down to the ground, that didn't get
some comfort, to go on with, as it were the ready-
money of comfort, as it were though it might be none
to put in the bank, sir."

" That 's true enough," I said. " Then your father
and mother ? "

And here I hesitated

" Were never married, sir," said the old man promptly,
as if he would relieve me from an embarrassing position.
" / couldn't help it. And I 'm no less the child of my
Father in heaven for it. For if He hadn't made me, I
couldn't ha' been their son, you know, sir. So that He
had more to do wi' the makin' o' me than they had ;
though mayhap, if He had His way all out, I might ha'
been the son o' somebody else. But, now that things
be so, I wouldn't have liked that at all, sir ; and bein'
once born so, I would not have e'er another couple of
parents in all England, sir, though I ne'er knew one o'
them. And I do love my mother. And I 'm so sorry
for my father that I love him too, sir. And if I could
only get my boy Tom to think as I do, I would die like
a psalm-tune on an organ, sir."

"But it seems to me strange," I said, " that your son
should think so much of what is so far gone by. Surely
he would not want another father than you, now. He
is used to his position in life. And there can be nothing
cast up to him about his birth or descent."

" That 's all very true, sir, and no doubt it would be
as you say. But there has been other things to keep


his mind upon the old affair. Indeed, sir, we have had
the same misfortune all over again among the young
people. And I mustn't say anything more about it;
only my boy Tom has a sore heart"

I knew at once to what he alluded ; for I could not
have been about in my parish all this time without learn-
ing that the strange handsome woman in the little shop
was the daughter of Thomas Weir, and that she was
neither wife nor widow. And it now occurred to me for
the first time that it was a likeness to her little boy that
had affected me so pleasantly when I first saw Thomas,
his grandfather. The likeness to his great-grandfather,
which I saw plainly enough, was what made the other
fact clear to me. And at the same moment I began to
be haunted with a flickering sense of a third likeness
which I could not in the least fix or identify.

" Perhaps," I said, " he may find some good come
out of that too."

" Well, who knows, sir ? "

" I think," I said, " that if we do evil that good may
come, the good we looked for will never come thereby.
But once evil is done, we may humbly look to Him who
bringeth good out of evil, and wait. Is your grand-
daughter Catherine in bad health] She looks so deli-
cate !"

" She always had an uncommon look. But what she
looks like now, I don't know. I hear no complaints ;
but she has never crossed this door since we got her set
up in that shop. She never comes near her father or
her sister, though she lets them, leastways her sister, go


and see her. I'm afraid Tom has been fayther un-
merciful with her. And if ever he put a bad name upon
her in her hearing, I know, from what that lass used to
be as a young one, that she wouldn't be likely to forget
it, and as little likely to get over it herself, or pass it
over to another, even her own father. I don't believe
they do more nor nod to one another when they meet
in the village. It 's well even if they do that much. It 's
my belief there 's some people made so hard that they
never can forgive anythink."

"How did she get into the trouble? Who is the
father of her child 1"

" Nay, that no one knows for certain ; though there
be suspicions, and one of them, no doubt, correct But,
I believe, fire wouldn't drive his name out at her mouth.
I know my lass. When she says a thing, she '11 stick
to it"

I asked no more questions. But, after a snort pause,
the old man went on.

" I shan't soon forget the night I first heard about my
father and mother. That was a night ! The wind was
roaring like a mad beast about the house; not this
house, sir, but the great house over the way."

" You don't mean Oldcastle Hall?" I said.

" 'Deed I do, sir," returned the old man. " This
house here belonged to the same family at one time ;
though when I was born it was another branch of the
family, second cousins or something, that lived in it
But even then it was something on to the downhill road,
I believe."


" But," I said, fearing my question might have turned
the old man aside from a story worth hearing, " never
mind all that now, if you please. I am anxious to hear
all about that night Do go on. You were saying the
wind was blowing about the old house."

" Eh, sir, it was roaring ! roaring as if it was mad
with rage ! And every now and then it would come
down the chimley like out of a gun, and blow the smoke
and a'most the fire into the middle of the housekeeper's
room. For the housekeeper had been giving me my
supper. I called her auntie, thenj and didn't know a
bit that she wasn't my aunt really. I was at that time a
kind of a under-gamekeeper upon the place, and slept
over the stable. But I fared of the best, for I was a
favourite with the old woman I suppose because I had
given her plenty of trouble in my time. That 's always
the way, sir. Well, as I was a-saying, when the wind
stopped for a moment, down came the rain with a noise
that sounded like a regiment of cavalry on the turnpike
road t'other side of the hill. And then up the wind got
again, and swept the rain away, and took it all in its
own hand again, and went on roaring worse than ever.
4 You '11 be wet afore you get across the yard, Samuel,'
said auntie, looking very prim in her long white apron,
as she sat on the other side of the little round table
before the fire, sipping a drop of hot rum and water,
which she always had before she went to bed. ' You'll
be wet to the skin, Samuel,' she said. 4 Never mind,'
says I. 4 1 'm not salt, nor yet sugar; and I '11 be going,
auntie, for you '11 be wanting your bed. 1 4 Sit ye still,'


said she. ' I don't want my bed yet.' And there she
sat, sipping at her rum and water ; and there I sat, o'
the other side, drinking the last of a pint of October,
she had gotten me from the cellar for I had been out
in the wind all day. ' It was just such a night as this,'
said she, and then stopped again. But I 'm wearying
you, sir, with my long story."

" Not in the least," I answered. " Quite the contrary.
Pray tell it out your own way. You won't tire me, I
assure you."

So the old man went on.

" ' It was just such a night as this,' she began again
'leastways it was snow and not rain that was coming
down, as if the Almighty was a-going to spend all His
winter-stock at oncet.' ' What happened such a night,
auntie 1 ?' I said. 'Ah, my lad!' said she, 'ye may well
ask what happened. None has a better right. You
happened. That's all.' 'Oh, that's all, is it, auntie]'
I said, and laughed. ' Nay, nay, Samuel,' said she, quite
solemn, ' what is there to laugh at, then ? I assure you,
you was anything but welcome.' ' And why wasn't I
welcome V I said. ' I couldn't help it, you know. I 'm
very sorry to hear I intruded,' I said, still making game
of it, you see; for I always did like a joke. ' Well,' she
said, ' you certainly wasn't wanted. But I don't blame
you, Samuel, and I hope you won't blame me.' ' What
do you mean, auntie V ' I mean this, that it's my fault,
if so be that fault it is, that you 're sitting there now, and
not lying, in less bulk by a good deal, at the bottom of
the Bishop's Basin.' That 's what they call a deep pond


at the foot of the old house, sir; though why or where-
fore, I 'm sure I don't know. ' Most extraordinary,
auntie !' I said, feeling very queer, and as if I really had
no business to be there. ' Never you mind, my dear,'
says she; ' there you are, and you can take care of your-
self now as well as anybody.' 'But who wanted to
drown me 1 ?' 'Are you sure you can forgive him, if I
tell you ?' ' Sure enough, suppose he was sitting where
you be now,' I answered. ' It was, I make no doubt,
though I can't prove it, I am morally certain it was
your own father.' I felt the skin go creepin' together
upon my head, and I couldn't speak. ' Yes, it was,
child ; and it 's time you knew all about it. Why, you
don't know who your own father was !' ' No more I do,'
I said ; ' and I never cared to ask, somehow. I thought
it was all right, I suppose. But I wonder now that I
never did.' ' Indeed you did many i time, when you
was a mere boy, like; but I suppose, as you never was
answered, you give it up for a bad job, and forgot all
about it, like a wise man. You always was a wise child,.
Samuel.' So the old lady always said, sir. And I was
willing to believe she was right, if I could. ' But now.'
said she. ' it 's time you knew all about it. Poor Miss
Wallis ! I *m no aunt of yours, my boy, though I love
you nearly as well, I think, as if I was; for dearly did I
love your mother. She was a beauty, and better than
she was beautiful, whatever folks may say. The only
wrong thing, I 'm certain, that she ever did, was to trust
your father too much. But I must see and give you the
story right through from beginning to end. Miss Wallis,


as I came to know from her own lips, was the daughter
of a country attorney, who had a good practice, and was
likely to leave her well off. Her mother died when she
was a little girl. It's not easy getting on without a
mother, my boy. So she wasn't taught much of the best
sort, I reckon. When her father died early, and she
was left alone, the only thing she could do was to take
a governess's place, and she came to us. She never got
on well with the children, for they were young and self-
willed and rude, and would not learn to do as they were
bid. I never knew one o' them shut the door when they
went out of this room. And, from having had all her
own way at home, with plenty of servants, and money
to spend, it was a sore change to her. But she was a
sweet creature, that she was. She did look sorely tried
when Master Freddy would get on the back of her chair,
and Miss Gusta would lie down on the rug, and never
stir for all she could say to them, but only laugh at her.
To be sure!' And then auntie would take a sip at
her rum and water, and sit considering old times like a
static. And I sat as if all my head was one great ear,
and I never spoke a word. And auntie began again.
' The way I came to know so much about her was this.
Nobody, you see, took any notice or care of her. For
the children were kept away with her in the old house,
and my lady wasn't one to take trouble about anybody
till once she stood in her way, and then she would just
shove her aside or crush her like a spider, and ha' done
with her.' They have always been a proud and a fierce
race, the Oldcastles, sir," said Weir, taking up the speech


in his own person, " and there 's been a deal o' breedin'
in-and-in amongst them, and that has kept up the worst
of them. The men took to the women of their own sort
somehow, you see. The lady up at the old Hall now is
a Crowfoot I '11 just tell you one thing the gardener
told me about her years ago, sir. She had a fancy for
hyacinths in her rooms in the spring, and she had some
particular fine ones ; and a lady of her acquaintance
begged for some of them. And what do you think she
did ? She couldn't refuse them, and she couldn't bear
any one to have them as good as she. And so she sent
the hyacinth-roots but she boiled 'em first The gar-
dener told me himself, sir. 'And so, when the poor
thing," said auntie, 'was taken with a dreadful cold,
which was no wonder if you saw the state of the window
in the room she had to sleep in, and which I got old Jones
to set to rights and paid him for it out of my own pocket,
else he wouldn't ha' done it at all, for the family wasn't too
much in the way or the means either of paying their debts
well, there she was, and nobody minding her, and of
course it fell to me to look after her. It would have
made your heart bleed to see the poor thing flung all of
a heap on her bed, blue with cold and coughing. " My
dear ! " I said ; and she burst out crying, and from that
moment there was confidence between us. I made her
as warm and as comfortable as I could, but I had to nurse
her for a fortnight before she was able to do anything
again. She didn't shirk her work though, poor thing.
It was a heartsore to me to see the poor young thing,
with her sweet eyes and her pale face, talking away to


those children, that were more like wild cats than human
beings. She might as well have talked to wild cats. I 'm
sure. But I don't think she was ever so miserable again
as she must have been before her illness ; for she used
often to come and see me of an evening, and she would
sit there where you are sitting now for an hour at a time,
without speaking, her thin white hands lying folded in
her lap, and her eyes fixed on the fire. I used to
wonder what she could be thinking about, and I had
made up my mind she was not long for this world ;
when all at once it was announced that Miss Oldcastle,
who had been to school for some time, was coming
home ; and then we began to see a great deal of com-
pany, and for month after month the house was more or
less filled with visitors, so that my time was constantly
taken up, and I saw much less of poor Miss Wallis than
I had seen before. But when we did meet on some of
the back stairs, or when she came to my room for a few
minutes before going to bed, we were just as good
friends as ever. And I used to say, " I wish this scurry
was over, my dear, that we might have our old times
again." And she would smile and say something sweet.
But I was surprised to see that her health began to
come back at least so it seemed to me, for her eyes
grew brighter and a flush came upon her pale face, and
though the children were as tiresome as ever, she didn't
seem to mind it so much. But indeed she had not
very much to do with them out of school hours now;
for when the spring came on, they would be out and
about the place with their sister or one of their brothers;


and indeed, out of doors it would have been impossible
for Miss Wallis to do anything with them. Some of the
visitors would take to them too, for they behaved so
badly to nobody as to Miss Wallis, and indeed they
were clever children, and could be engaging enough
when they pleased. But then I had a blow, Samuel
It was a lovely spring night, just after the sun was
down, and I wanted a drop of milk fresh from the cow
for something that I was making for dinner the next
day ; so I went through the kitchen-garden and through
the belt of young larches to go to the shippen. But
when I got among the trees, who should I see at the
other end of the path that went along, but Miss Wallis
walking arm-in-arm with Captain Crowfoot, who was just
home from India, where he had been with Lord Clive.
The captain was a man about two or three and thirty,
a relation of the family, and the son of Sir Giles Crow-
foot' who lived then in this old house, si., and had but
that one son, my father, you see, sir. ' And it did give
me a turn,' said my aunt, ' to see her walking with him,
for I felt as sure as judgment that no good could come
of it For the captain had not the best of characters
that is, when people talked about him in chimney-
corners, and such like, though he was a great favourite
with everybody that knew nothing about him. He was
a fine, manly, handsome fellow, with a smile that, as
people said, no woman could resist, though I 'm sure it
would have given me no trouble to resist it, whatever
they may mean by that, for I saw that that same smile
was the falsest thing of all the false things about him.


All the time he was smiling, you would have thought he
was looking at himself in a glass. He was said to have
gathered a power of money in India, somehow or other.
But I don't know, only I don't think he would have
been the favourite he was with my lady if he hadn't
And reports were about, too, of the ways and means by
which he had made the money ; some said by robbing
the poor heathen creatures ; and some said it was only
that his brother officers didn't approve of his speculating
as he did in horses and other things. I don't know
whether officers are so particular. At all events, this
was a fact, for it was one of his own servants that told
me, not thinking any harm or any shame of it. He had
quarrelled with a young ensign in the regiment On
which side the wrong was, I don't know. But he first
thrashed him most unmercifully, and then called him
out, as they say. And when the poor fellow appeared,
he could scarcely see out of his eyes, and certainly
couldn't take anything like an aim. And he shot him
dead, did Captain Crowfoot.' Think of hearing that
about one's own father, sir ! But I never said a word,
for I hadn't a word to say. 'Think of that, Samuel,'
said my aunt, ' else you won't believe what I am going
to tell you. And you won't even then, I dare say. But I
must tell you, nevertheless and notwithsianding. Well,
I felt as if the earth was sinking away from under the
feet of me, and I stood and stared at them. And they
came on, never seeing me, and actually went close past
me and never saw me ; at least, if he saw me he took no
notice, for I don't suppose that the angel with the flam-


ing sword would have put him out But for her, I know
she didn't see me, for her face was down, burning and
smiling at once.' I 'm an old man now, sir, and I never
saw my mother ; but I can't tell you the story without
feeling as if my heart would break for the poor young
lady. ' I went back to my room,' said my aunt, ' with
my empty jug in my hand, and I sat down as if I had
had a stroke, and I never moved till it was pitch dark
and my fire out. It was a marvel to me afterwards that
nobody came near me, for everybody was calling after
me at that time. And it was days before I caught a
glimpse of Miss Wallis again, at least to speak to her.
At last, one night she came to my room ; and without a
moment of parley, I said to her, " Oh, my dear ! what
was that wretch saying to you ? " " What wretch ? " says
she, quite sharp like. " Why, Captain Crowfoot," says
I, "to be sure." "What have you to say against Cajv-
tain Crowfoot?" says she, quite scornful like. So I
tumbled out all I had against him in one breath. She
turned awful pale, and she shook from head to foot, but
she was able for all that to say, " Indian servants are
known liars, Mrs Prendergast," says she, " and I don't
believe one word of it all. But I Ml ask him, the next
time I see him." " Do so, my dear," I said, not fearing
for myself, for I knew he would not make any fuss that
might bring the thing out into the air, and hoping that
it might lead to a quarrel between them. And the next
time I met her, Samuel it was in the gallery that takes
to the west turret she passed me with a nod just, and
a blush instead of a smile on her sweet face. And I


didn't blame her, Samuel ; but I knew that that villain
had gotten a hold of her. And so I could only cry, and
that I did. Things went on like this lor some months.
The captain came and went, stopping a week at a time.
Then he stopped for a whole month, and this was in the
first of the summer ; and then he said he was ordered
abroad again, and went away. But he didn't go abroad.
He came again in the autumn for the shooting, and
began to make up to Miss Oldcastle, who had grown a
fine young woman by that time. And then Miss Wallis
began to pine. The captain went away again. Before
long I was certain that if ever young creature was in a
consumption, she was ; but she never said a word to
me. How ever the poor thing got on with her work, I
can't think, but she grew weaker and weaker. I took
the best care of her she would let me, and contrived
that she should have her meals in her own room ; but
something was between her and me that she never
spoke a word about herself, and never alluded to the
captain. By and by came the news that the captain
and Miss Oldcastle were to be married in the spring.
And Miss Wallis took to her bed after that; and my
lady said she had never been of much use, and wanted
to send her away. But Miss Oldcastle, who was far
superior to any of the rest in her disposition, spoke
up for her. She had been to ask me about her, and I
told her the poor thing must go to a hospital if she was
sent away, for she had ne'er a home to go to. And
then she went to see the governess, poor thing ! and
spoke very kindly to her; but never a word would Miss


Wallis answer; she only stared at her with great, big, wild-
like eyes. And Miss Oldcastle thought she was out ol
her mind, and spoke of an asylum. But I said she hadn't
long to live, and if she would get my lady her mother to
consent to take no notice, I would take all the care and
trouble of her. And she promised, and the poor thing
was left alone. I began to think myself her mind must
be going, for not a word would she speak, even to me,
though every moment I could spare I was up with her
in her room. Only I was forced to be careful not to be
out of the way when my lady wanted me, for that would
have tied me more. At length one day, as I was settling
her pillow for her, she all at once threw her arms about
my neck, and burst into a terrible fit of crying. She
sobbed and panted for breath so dreadfully, that I put
my arms round her and lifted her up to give her relief;
and when I laid her down again, I whispered in her ear,
" I know now, my dear. I '11 do all I can for you."
She caught hold of my hand and held it to her lips, and
then to her bosom, and cried again, but more quietly,
and all was right between us once more. It was well
for her, poor thing, that she could go to her bed. And
I said to myself, " Nobody need ever know about it ;
and nobody ever shall if I can help it." To tell the
truth, my hope was that she would die before there
was any need for further concealment. But people in
that condition seldom die, they say, till all is over ; and
so she lived on and on, though plainly getting weaker
and weaker. At the captain's next visit, the wedding-
day was fixed. And after that a circumstance came


about that made me uneasy. A Hindoo servant the
captain called him his nigger always had been con-
stantly in attendance upon him. I never could abide
the snake-look of the fellow, nor the noiseless way he
went about the house. But this time the captain had a
Hindoo woman with him as well. He said that his
man had fallen in with her in London; that he had
known her before ; that she had come home as nurse
with an English family, and it would be very nice for
his wife to take her back with her to India, if she could
only give her house room, and make her useful till after
the wedding. This was easily arranged, and he went
away to return in three weeks, when the wedding was
to take place. Meantime poor Emily grew fast worse,
and how she held out with that terrible cough of hers I
never could understand and spitting blood, too, every
other hour or so, though not very much. And now, to
my great trouble, with the preparations for the wedding,
I could see yet less of her than before ; and when Miss
Oldcastle sent the Hindoo to ask me if she might not

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