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Adela Cathcart, Vol. 3 by George MacDonald

Part 4 out of 4

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will love you and love you to all eternity. I won't leave you. I won't
indeed. What _does_ it matter for the money!"

At this moment the doctor entered.

"Ah!" he said, "this won't do at all. I thought you would have made a
better nurse, Miss Adela. There you are, both crying together!"

"Indeed, Mr. Henry," said Adela, rather comically, "it's not my fault. He
would cry."

And as she spoke she wiped away her own tears.

"But he's looking much better, after all," said Harry. "Allow me to feel
your pulse."

The patient was pronounced much better; fresh orders were given; and Harry
took his leave.

But Adela felt vexed. She did not consider that he knew nothing of what
had passed between her father and her. To the warm fire-side of her
knowledge, he came in wintry and cold. Of course it would never do for the
doctor to aggravate his patient's symptoms by making love to his daughter;
but ought he not to have seen that it was all right between them now?--How
often we feel and act as if our mood were the atmosphere of the world! It
may be a cold frost within us, when our friend is in the glow of a summer
sunset: and we call him unsympathetic and unfeeling. If we let him know
the state of our world, we should see the rosehues fade from his, and our
friend put off his singing robes, and sit down with us in sackcloth and
ashes, to share our temptation and grief.

"You see I cannot offer you to him now, Adela," said her father.

"No, papa."

But I knew that all had come right, although I saw from Adela's manner
that she was not happy about it.

So things went on for a week, during which the colonel was slowly mending.
I used to read him to sleep. Adela would sit by the fire, or by the
bedside, and go and come while I was reading.

One afternoon, in the twilight, Harry entered. We greeted; and then,
turning to the bed, I discovered that my friend was asleep. We drew
towards the fire, and sat down. Adela had gone out of the room a few
minutes before.

"He is such a manageable patient!" I said.

"Noble old fellow!" returned the doctor. "I wish he would like me, and
then all would be well."

"He doesn't dislike you personally," I said.

"I hope not. I can understand his displeasure perfectly, and repugnance
too. But I assure you, Mr. Smith, I did not lay myself out to gain her
affections. I was caught myself before I knew. And I believe she liked me
too before she knew."

"I fear their means will be very limited after this."

"For his sake I am very sorry to hear it; but for my own, I cannot help
thinking it the luckiest thing that could have happened."

"I am not so sure of that. It might increase the difficulty."

At this moment I thought I heard the handle of the door move, but there
was a screen between us and it. I went on.

"That is, if you still want to marry her, you know."

"Marry her!" he said. "If she were a beggar-maid, I would be proud as King
Cophetua to marry her to-morrow."

There was a rustle in the twilight, and a motion of its gloom. With a
quick gliding, Adela drew near, knelt beside Harry, and hid her eyes on
his knee. I thought it better to go.

Was this unmaidenly of her?

I say "No, for she knew that he loved her."

As I left the room, I heard the colonel call--

"Adela."

And when I returned, I found them both standing by the bedside, and the
old man holding a hand of each.

"Now, John Smith," I said to myself, "you may go when you please."

Before we, that is, I and my reader, part, however, my reader may be
inclined to address me thus:

"Pray, Mr. Smith, do you think it was your wonderful prescription of
story-telling, that wrought Miss Cathcart's cure?"

"How can I tell?" I answer. "Probably it had its share. But there were
other things to take into the account. If you went on to ask me whether it
was not Harry's prescriptions; or whether it was not the curate's sermons;
or whether it was not her falling in love with the doctor; or whether even
her father's illness and the loss of their property had not something to
do with it; or whether it was not the doctor's falling in love with her;
or that the cold weather suited her; I should reply in the same way to
every one of the interrogatories."

But I retort another question:

"Did you ever know anything whatever resulting from the operation of one
separable cause?"

In regard to any good attempt I have ever made in my life, I am content to
know that the end has been gained. Whether _I_ have succeeded or not is of
no consequence, if I have tried well.--In the present case, Adela
recovered; and my own conviction is, that the cure was effected mainly
from within. Except in physics, we can put nothing to the _experimentum
crucis_, and must be content with conjecture and probability.

The night before I left, I had a strange dream. I stood in a lonely
cemetery in a pine-forest. Dark trees that never shed their foliage rose
all around--strange trees that mourn for ever, because they never die. The
dream light that has no visible source, because it is in the soul that
dreams, showed all in a dim blue-grey dawn, that never grew clearer. The
night wind was the only power abroad save myself. It went with slow
intermitting, sigh-like gusts, through the tops of the dreaming trees; for
the trees seemed, in the midst of my dream, to have dreams of their own.

Now this burial-place was mine. I had tended it for years. In it lay all
the men and women whom I had honoured and loved.

And I was a great sculptor. And over every grave I had placed a marble
altar, and upon every altar the marble bust of the man or woman who lay
beneath; each in the supreme beauty which all the defects of birth and of
time and of incompleteness, could not hide from the eye of the prophetic
sculptor. Each was like a half-risen glorified form of the being who had
there descended into the realms of Hades. And through these glimmering
rows of the dead I walked in the dream-light; and from one to another I
went in the glory of having known and loved them; now weeping sad tears
over the loss of the beautiful; now rejoicing in the strength of the
mighty; now exulting in the love and truth which would yet dawn upon me
when I too should go down beneath the visible, and emerge in the realms of
the actual and the unseen? All the time I was sensible of a wondrous
elevation of being, a glory of life and feeling hitherto unknown to me.

I had entered the secret places of my own hidden world by the gate of
sleep, and walked about them in my dream.

Gradually I became aware that a foreign sound was mingling with the
sighing of the tree-tops overhead. It grew and grew, till I recognized the
sound of wheels--not of heavenly chariots, but of earthly motion and
business. I heard them stop at the lofty gates of my holy place, and by
twoes and threes, or in solitary singleness, came people into my garden of
the dead. And who should they be but the buried ones?--all those whose
marble busts stood in ghostly silence, within the shadows of the
everlasting pines? And they talked and laughed and jested. And my
city of the dead melted away. And lo! we stood in the midst of a great
market-place; and I knew it to be the market-place in which the children
had sat who said to the other children:

"We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you,
and ye have not lamented."

And to my misery, I saw that the faces of my fathers and brothers, my
mothers and sisters, had not grown nobler in the country of the dead, in
which I had thought them safe and shining. Cares, as of this world, had so
settled upon them, that I could hardly recognize the old likeness; and the
dim forms of the ideal glory which I had reproduced in my marble busts,
had vanished altogether. Ah me! my world of the dead! my city of
treasures, hid away under the locks and bars of the unchangeable! Was
there then no world of realities?--only a Vanity Fair after all? The
glorious women went sweeping about, smiling and talking, and buying and
adorning, but they were glorious no longer; for they had common thoughts,
and common beauties, and common language and aims and hopes; and
everything was common about them. And ever and anon, with a kind of
shiver, as if to keep alive my misery by the sight of my own dreams, the
marble busts would glimmer out, faintly visible amidst the fair, as if
about to reappear, and, dispossessing the vacuity of folly, assert the
noble and the true, and give me back my dead to love and worship once
more, in the loneliness of the pine-forest. Side by side with a greedy
human face, would shimmer out for a moment the ghostly marble face; and
the contrast all but drove me mad with perplexity and misery.

"Alas!" I cried, "where is my future? Where is my beautiful death?"

All at once I saw the face of a man who went round and round the skirts of
the market, and looked earnestly in amongst the busy idlers. He was head
and shoulders taller than any there; and his face was a pale face, with an
infinite future in it, visible in all its grief. I made my way through the
crowd, which regarded me with a look which I could not understand, and
came to the stranger. I threw myself at his feet and sobbed: "I have lost
them all. I will follow thee." He took me by the hand, and led me back. We
walked up and down the fair together. And as we walked, the tumult
lessened, and lessened. They made a path for us to go, and all eyes were
turned upon my guide. The tumult sank, and all was still. Men and women
stood in silent rows. My guide looked upon them all, on the right and on
the left. And they all looked on him till their eyes filled with tears.
And the old faces of my friends grew slowly out of the worldly faces,
until at length they were such as I had known of yore.

Suddenly they all fell upon their knees, and their faces changed into the
likeness of my marble faces. Then my guide waved his hand--and lo! we were
in the midst of my garden of the dead; and the wind was like the sound of
a going in the tops of the pine trees; and my white marbles glimmered
glorified on the altars of the tombs. And the dream vanished, and I came
awake.

And I will not say here whose face the face of my guide was like.

THE END.

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