Part 10 out of 11
THE PORCH OF HADES.
When Arctura woke from her unnatural sleep, she lay a while without
thought, then began to localize herself. The last place she recalled
was the inn where they had tea: she must have been there taken ill,
she thought, and was now in a room of the same. It was quite dark:
they might have left a light by her! She lay comfortably enough, but
had a suspicion that the place was not over clean, and was glad to
find herself not undrest. She turned on her side: something pulled
her by the wrist. She must have a bracelet on, and it was entangled
in the coverlet! She tried to unclasp it, but could not: which of
her bracelets could it be? There was something attached to it!--a
chain--a thick chain! How odd! What could it mean? She lay quiet,
slowly waking to fuller consciousness.--Was there not a strange air,
a dull odour in the room? Undefined as it was, she had smelt it
before, and not long since!--It was the smell of the lost
chapel!--But that was at home in the castle! she had left it two
days before! Was she going out of her mind?
The dew of agony burst from her forehead. She would have started up,
but was pulled hard by the wrist! She cried on God.--Yes, she was
lying on the very spot where that heap of woman-dust had lain! she
was manacled with the same ring from which that woman's arm had
wasted--the decay of centuries her slow redeemer! Her being recoiled
so wildly from the horror, that for a moment she seemed on the edge
of madness. But madness is not the sole refuge from terror! Where
the door of the spirit has once been opened wide to God, there is
he, the present help in time of trouble! With him in the house, it
is not only that we need fear nothing, but that is there which in
its own being and nature casts out fear. God and fear cannot be
together. It is a God far off that causes fear. "In thy presence is
fulness of joy." Such a sense of absolute helplessness overwhelmed
Arctura that she felt awake in her an endless claim upon the
protection of her original, the source of her being. And what sooner
would any father have of his children than action on such claim! God
is always calling us as his children, and when we call him as our
father, then, and not till then, does he begin to be satisfied. And
with that there fell upon Arctura a kind of sleep, which yet was not
sleep; it was a repose such as perhaps is the sleep of a spirit.
Again the external began to intrude. She pictured to herself what
the darkness was hiding. Her feelings when first she came down into
the place returned on her memory. The tide of terror began again to
rise. It rose and rose, and threatened to become monstrous. She
reasoned with herself: had she not been brought in safety through
its first and most dangerous inroad?--but reason could not outface
terror. It was fear, the most terrible of all terrors, that she
feared. Then again woke her faith: if the night hideth not from him,
neither does the darkness of fear!
It began to thunder, first with a low distant muttering roll, then
with a loud and near bellowing. Was it God coming to her? Some are
strangely terrified at thunder; Arctura had the child's feeling that
it was God that thundered: it comforted her as with the assurance
that God was near. As she lay and heard the great organ of the
heavens, its voice seemed to grow articulate; God was calling to
her, and saying, "Here I am, my child! be not afraid!"
Then she began to reason with herself that the worst that could
happen to her was to lie there till she died of hunger, and that
could not be so very bad! And therewith across the muttering thunder
came a wail of the ghost-music. She started: had she not heard it a
hundred times before, as she lay there in the dark alone? Was she
only now for the first time waking up to it--she, the lady they had
shut up there to die--where she had lain for ages, with every now
and then that sound of the angels singing, far above her in the blue
She was beginning to wander. She reasoned with herself, and
dismissed the fancy; but it came and came again, mingled with real
memories, mostly of the roof, and Donal.
By and by she fell asleep, and woke in a terror which seemed to have
been growing in her sleep. She sat up, and stared into the dark.
>From where stood the altar, seemed to rise and approach her a form
of deeper darkness. She heard nothing, saw nothing, but something
was there. It came nearer. It was but a fancy; she knew it; but the
fancy assumed to be: the moment she gave way, and acknowledged it,
that moment it would have the reality it had been waiting for, and
clasp her in its skeleton-arms! She cried aloud, but it only came
nearer; it was about to seize her!
A sudden, divine change!--her fear was gone, and in its place a
sense of absolute safety: there was nothing in all the universe to
be afraid of! It was a night of June, with roses, roses everywhere!
Glory be to the Father! But how was it? Had he sent her mother to
think her full of roses? Why her mother? God himself is the heart of
every rose that ever bloomed! She would have sung aloud for joy, but
no voice came; she could not utter a sound. What a thing this would
be to tell Donal Grant! This poor woman cried, and God heard her,
and saved her out of all her distresses! The father had come to his
child! The cry had gone from her heart into his!
If she died there, would Donal come one day and find her? No! No!
She would speak to him in a dream, and beg him not to go near the
place! She would not have him see her lie like that he and she
standing together had there looked upon!
With that came Donal's voice, floated and rolled in music and
thunder. It came from far away; she did not know whether she fancied
or really heard it. She would have responded with a great cry, but
her voice vanished in her throat. Her joy was such that she
remembered nothing more.
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD.
Standing upon the edge of the stone leaned against the wall, Donal
seized the edge of the slab which crossed the opening near the top,
and drew himself up into the sloping window-sill. Pressing with all
his might against the sides of the window, he succeeded at last in
pushing up the slab so far as to get a hold with one hand on the
next to it. Then slowly turning himself on his side, while the whole
weight of the stone rested on his fingers, he got the other hand
also through the crack. This effected, he hauled and pushed himself
up with his whole force, careless of what might happen to his head.
The top of it came bang against the stone, and lifted it so far that
he got head and neck through. The thing was done! With one more
Herculean lift of his body and the stone together, like a man rising
from the dead, he rose from the crypt into the passage.
But the door of the chapel would not yield to a gentle push.
"My lady," he cried, "don't be afraid. I must make a noise. It's
only Donal Grant! I'm going to drive the door open."
She heard the words! They woke her from her swoon of joy. "Only
Donal Grant!" What less of an only could there be in the world for
her! Was he not the messenger who raised the dead!
She tried to speak, but not a word would come. Donal drew back a
pace, and sent such a shoulder against the door that it flew to the
wall, then fell with a great crash on the floor.
"Where are you, my lady?" he cried.
But still she could not speak.
He began feeling about.
"Not on that terrible bed!" she heard him murmur.
Fear lest in the darkness he should not find her, gave her back her
"I don't mind it now!" she said feebly.
"Thank God!" cried Donal; "I've found you at last!"
Worn out, he sank on his knees, with his head on the bed, and fell a
sobbing like a child.
She would have put out her hand through the darkness to find him,
but the chain checked it. He heard the rattle of it, and understood.
"Chained too, my dove!" he said, but in Gaelic.
His weakness was over. He thanked God, and took courage. New life
rushed through every vein. He rose to his feet in conscious
"Can you strike a light, and let me see you, Donal?" said Arctura.
Then first she called him by his Christian name: it had been so
often in her heart if not on her lips that night!
The dim light wasted the darkness of the long buried place, and for
a moment they looked at each other. She was not so changed as Donal
had feared to find her--hardly so change to him as he was to her.
Terrible as had been her trial, it had not lasted long, and had been
succeeded by a heavenly joy. She was paler than usual, yet there was
a rosy flush over her beautiful face. Her hand was stretched towards
him, its wrist clasped by the rusty ring, and tightening the chain
that held it to the post.
"How pale and tired you look!" she said.
"I am a little tired," he answered. "I came almost without stopping.
My mother sent me. She said I must come, but she did not tell me
"It was God sent you," said Arctura.
Then she briefly told him what she knew of her own story.
"How did he get the ring on to your wrist?" said Donal.
He looked closer and saw that her hand was swollen, and the skin
"He forced it on!" he said. "How it must hurt you!"
"It does hurt now you speak of it," she replied. "I did not notice
it before.--Do you suppose he left me here to die?"
"Who can tell!" returned Donal. "I suspect he is more of a madman
than we knew. I wonder if a soul can be mad.--Yes; the devil must be
mad with self-worship! Hell is the great madhouse of creation!"
"Take me away," she said.
"I must first get you free," answered Donal.
She heard him rise.
"You are not going to leave me?" she said.
"Only to get a tool or two."
"And after that?" she said.
"Not until you wish me," he answered. "I am your servant now--his no
THE ANGEL OF THE DEVIL.
There came a great burst of thunder. It was the last of the storm.
It bellowed and shuddered, went, and came rolling up again. It died
away at last in the great distance, with a low continuous rumbling
as if it would never cease. The silence that followed was like the
Egyptian darkness; it might be felt.
Out of the tense heart of the silence came a faint sound. It came
again and again, at regular intervals.
"That is my uncle's step!" said Arctura in a scared whisper through
It was plainly a slow step--far off, but approaching.
"I wonder if he has a light!" she added hurriedly. "He often goes in
the dark without one. If he has you must get behind the altar."
"Do not speak a word," said Donal; let him think you are asleep. If
he has no light, I will stand so that he cannot come near the bed
without coming against me. Do not be afraid; he shall not touch
The steps were coming nearer all the time. A door opened and shut.
Then they were loud--they were coming along the gallery! They
ceased. He was standing up there in the thick darkness!
"Arctura," said a deep, awful voice.
It was that of the earl. Arctura made no answer.
"Dead of fright!" muttered the voice. "All goes well. I will go down
and see. She might have proved as obstinate as the boys' mother!"
Again the steps began. They were coming down the stair. The door at
the foot of it opened. The earl entered a step or two, then stopped.
Through the darkness Donal seemed to know exactly where he stood. He
knew also that he was fumbling for a match, and watched intently for
the first spark. There came a sputter and a gleam, and the match
failed. Ere he could try another, Donal made a swift blow at his
arm. It knocked the box from his hand.
"Ha!" he cried, and there was terror in the cry, "she strikes at me
through the dark!"
Donal kept very still. Arctura kept as still as he. The earl turned
and went away.
"I will bring a candle!" he muttered.
"Now, my lady, we must make haste," said Donal. "Do you mind being
left while I fetch my tools?"
"No--but make haste," she answered.
"I shall be back before him," he returned.
"Be careful you do not meet him," said Arctura.
There was no difficulty now, either in going or returning. He sped,
and in a space that even to Arctura seemed short, was back. There
was no time to use the file: he attacked the staple, and drew it
from the bed-post, then wound the chain about her arm, and tied it
He had already made up his mind what to do with her. He had been
inclined to carry her away from the house: Doory would take care of
her! But he saw that to leave the enemy in possession would be to
yield him an advantage. Awkward things might result from it! the
tongues of inventive ignorance and stupidity would wag wildly! He
would take her to her room, and there watch her as he would the
pearl of price!
"There! you are free, my lady," he said. "Now come."
He took her hands, and she raised herself wearily.
"The air is so stifling!" she said.
"We shall soon have better!" answered Donal.
"Shall we go on the roof?" she said, like one talking in her sleep.
"I will take you to your own room," replied Donal. "--But I will not
leave you," he added quickly, seeing a look of anxiety cloud her
face, "--so long as your uncle is in the house."
"Take me where you will," rejoined Arctura.
There was no way but through the crypt: she followed him without
hesitation. They crept through the little closet under the stair,
and were in the hall of the castle.
As they went softly up the stair, Donal had an idea.
"He is not back yet!" he said: "we will take the key from the oak
door; he will think he has mislaid it, and will not find out that
you are gone. I wonder what he will do!"
Cautiously listening to be sure the earl was not there, he ran to
the oak door, locked it, and brought away the key. Then they went to
the room Arctura had last occupied.
The door was ajar; there was a light in the room. They went softly,
and peeped in. The earl was there, turning over the contents of her
"He will find nothing," she whispered with a smile.
Donal led her away.
"We will go to your old room," he said. "The whole recess is built
up with stone and lime: he cannot come near you that way!"
She made no objection. Donal secured the doors, lighted a fire, and
went to look for food. They had agreed upon a certain knock, without
which she was to open to none.
While she was yet changing the garments in which she had lain on the
terrible bed, she heard the earl go by, and the door of his room
close. Apparently he had concluded to let her pass the night without
another visit: he had himself had a bad fright, and had probably not
got over it. A little longer and she heard Donal's gentle signal at
the door of the sitting-room. He had brought some biscuits and a
little wine in the bottom of a decanter from the housekeeper's room:
there was literally nothing in the larder, he said.
They sat down and ate the biscuits. Donal told his adventures. They
agreed that she must write to the factor to come home at once, and
bring his sister. Then Donal set to with his file upon the ring: her
hand was much too swollen to admit of its being removed as it had
been put on. It was not easy to cut it, partly from the constant
danger of hurting her swollen hand, partly that the rust filled and
blunted the file.
"There!" he said at last, "you are free! And now, my lady, you must
take some rest. The door to the passage is secure. Lock this one
inside, and I will draw the sofa across it outside: if he come
wandering in the night, and get into this room, he will not reach
Weary as he was, Donal could not sleep much. In the middle of the
night he heard the earl's door open, and watched and followed him.
He went to the oak door, and tried in vain to open it.
"She has taken it!" he muttered, in what seemed to Donal an
All night long he roamed the house a spirit grievously tormented. In
the gray of the morning, having perhaps persuaded himself that the
whole affair was a trick of his imagination, he went back to his
In the morning Donal left the house, having first called to Arctura
and warned her to lock the door of the sitting-room the moment he
was gone. He ran all the way down to the inn, paid his bill, bought
some things in the town for their breakfast, and taking the mare,
rode up to the castle, and rang the bell. No notice was taken. He
went and put up his animal, then let himself into the house by
Baliol's tower, and began to sing. So singing he went up the great
stair, and into and along the corridor where the earl lay.
The singing roused him, and brought him to his door in a rage. But
the moment he saw Donal his countenance fell.
"What the devil are you doing here?" he said.
"They told me in the town you were in England, my lord!"
"I wrote to you," said the earl, "that we were gone to London, and
that you need be in no haste to return. I trust you have not brought
Davie with you?"
"I have not, my lord."
"Then make what haste back to him you can. He must not be alone with
bumpkins! You may stay there with him till I send for you--only mind
you go on with your studies. Now be off. I am at home but for a few
hours on business, and leave again by the afternoon coach!"
"I do not go, my lord, until I have seen my mistress."
"Your mistress! Who, pray, is your mistress!"
"I am no longer in your service, my lord."
"Then what, in the name of God, have you done with my son?"
"In good time, my lord, when you have told me where my mistress is!
I am in this house as lady Arctura's servant; and I desire to know
where I shall find her."
"What address, please your lordship? I will wait her orders here."
"You will leave this house at once," said the earl. "I will not have
you here in both her ladyship's absence and my own."
"My lord, I am not ignorant how things stand: I am in lady Arctura's
house; and here I remain till I receive her commands."
"Very well! By all means!"
"I ask you again for her address, my lord."
"Find it for yourself. You will not obey my orders: am I to obey
He turned on his heel, and flung to his door.
Donal went to lady Arctura. She was in the sitting-room, anxiously
waiting his return. She had heard their voices, but nothing that
passed. He told her what he had done; then produced his provisions,
and together they prepared their breakfast. By and by they heard the
earl come from his room, go here and there through the still house,
and return to his apartment.
In the afternoon he left the house. They watched him away--ill able,
apparently, even to crawl along. He went down the hill, nor once
lifted his head. They turned and looked at each other. Profound pity
for the wretched old man was the feeling of both. It was followed by
one of intense relief and liberty.
"You would like to be rid of me now, my lady," said Donal; "but I
don't see how I can leave you. Shall I go and fetch Miss
"No, certainly," answered Arctura. "I cannot apply to her."
"It would be a pity to lose the advantage of your uncle's not
knowing what has become of you."
"I wonder what he will do next! If I were to die now, the property
would be his, and then Forgue's!"
"You can will it away, I suppose, my lady!" answered Donal.
Arctura stood thoughtful.
"Is Forgue a bad man, Mr. Grant?"
"I dare not trust him," answered Donal.
"Do you think he had any knowledge of this plot of his father's?"
"I cannot tell. I do not believe he would have left you to die in
The same afternoon, while Donal was reading to Arctura in the
library, there came a loud ringing of the door-bell. Donal ran to
see, and to his great delight, there was mistress Brookes, half wild
with anxious terror.
"Is my leddy safe?" she cried--then clasped Donal in her arms and
embraced him as if he had been her son.
>From the moment she discovered herself fooled, she had been
imagining all manner of terrible things--yet none so terrible as the
truth. There was no end to her objurgations, exclamations,
anathemas, and interjections.
"Now I can leave you in peace, my lady!" said Donal, who had not
resumed his seat.
"Noo ye can bide whaur ye are, an' be thankfu'!" said mistress
Brookes. "Wha daur meddle wi' ye, an' me i' the hoose! An' wha kens
what the mad yerl, for mad I s' uphaud him, an' fit only to be
lockit up--wha kens what he may do neist! Maister Grant, I cannot
lat ye oot o' the hoose."
"I was only going as far as mistress Comin's," replied Donal.
"Weel, ye can gang; but min' ye're hame i' gude time!"
"I thought of putting up there, but I will do as my lady pleases."
"Come home," said Arctura.
Donal went, and the first person he saw when he entered the house
was Eppy. She turned instantly away, and left the room: he could not
help seeing why.
The old woman welcomed him with her usual cordiality, but not her
usual cheerfulness: he had scarcely noted since her husband's death
any change on her manner till now: she looked weary of the world.
She sat down, smoothed her apron on her knees, gave him one glance
in the face, then looked down at her hands, and said nothing.
"I ken what ails ye, Doory," said Donal; "but i' the name o' him
'at's awa', hearken til me.--The lass is no lost, naither is the
Lord asleep. Yer lamb 's been sair misguidit, sair pluckit o' her
bonny woo', but gien for that she haud the closer by the Lord's
flock, she'll ken it wasna for want o' his care the tod got a grup
o' her. It's a terrible pity for the bonny cratur, disgracin' them
'at aucht her! What for winna yoong fowk believe them 'at speyks
true, but wull believe them 'at tells them little but lees! Still,
it's no as gien she had been stealin'! She's wrangt her puir sel',
an' she's wrangt us a', an' she's wrangt the Lord; but for a' that
ye canna luik doon upon her as upo' the man 'at's grown rich at the
cost o' his neebours. There's mony a gran' prood leddy 'ill hae to
stan' aside to lat Eppy pass up, whan we're 'afore the richteous
"Eh, but ye speyk like my Anerew!" cried the poor woman, wiping her
old eyes with her rough apron. "I s' do what I can for her; but
there's no hidin' o' 't!"
"Hidin' o' 't!" cried Donal. "The Lord forbid! Sic things are no to
be hidden! Sae lang 's she 's i' the warl', the thing has to be
kenned o' a' 'at come nigh her. She maun beir her burden, puir lass!
The Lord he'll lichten 't til her, but he'll hae naething smugglet
up. That's no the w'y o' his kingdom!--I suppose there's nae doobt
"Nane. The Lord forbid!"
Two days after, Mr. Graeme and his sister returned, and at lady
Arctura's request took up their abode at the castle. She told them
that of late she had become convinced her uncle was no longer
capable of attending to her affairs; that he was gone to London;
that she had gone away with him, and was supposed to be with him
still, though she had returned, and he did not know where she was.
She did not wish him to know, but desired for the present to remain
concealed. She had her reasons; and requested therefore as a
personal favour that they would not once or to any one allude to her
being at the castle. Mr. Graeme would in the meantime be so good as
make himself acquainted, so far as possible, with the state of
affairs between her and her uncle.
In the course of the investigations thereupon following, it became
clear that a large portion of the moneys of the estate received by
his lordship were nowise accounted for. Lady Arctura directed that
further inquiry should in the meantime be stayed, but that no more
money should be handed over to him.
For some time the factor heard nothing from his lordship. At length
came instructions as to the forwarding of money, Forgue writing and
his father signing. Mr. Graeme replied, excusing himself as he
could, but sending no money. They wrote again. Again he excused
himself. The earl threatened. Mr. Graeme took no heed. His lordship
continued to demand and threaten, but neither he nor his son
appeared. The factor at length wrote that he would pay no money but
to lady Arctura. The earl himself wrote in reply, saying--had he
been out of the country that he did not know she was dead and six
weeks in her grave? Again the factor did not reply.
Donal rode back to Glashgar, and brought Davie home. Lessons were
resumed, and Arctura took her full share in them.
Soon all about the castle was bustle and labour--masons and
carpenters busy from morning to night. The wall that masked the
windows of the chapel was pulled down; the windows, of stained
glass, with never a crack, were cleaned; the passage under them was
opened to the great stair; lady Arctura had a small sweet-toned
organ built in the little gallery, and the mural stair from her own
room opened again, that she might go down when she pleased to play
on it--sometimes, in south-easterly winds, to listen to the aeolian
harp dreaming out the music of the spheres.
In the process of removing the bed, much of it crumbled to dust. The
carved tester and back were set up, the one over the great
chimney-piece in the hall, the other over that in Arctura's room.
The altar was replaced where the bed had been. The story of the
finding of the lost chapel was written by Donal, and placed by
Arctura among the records of the family.
But it soon became evident that what she had passed through had
exercised a hurtful influence on lady Arctura's health. She was
almost always happy, but her strength at times would suddenly desert
her. Both Donal and mistress Brookes regarded her with some anxiety.
Her organ, to which she gave more labour than she was quite equal
to, was now one of her main delights. Often would its chords be
heard creeping through the long ducts and passages of the castle:
either for a small instrument its tone was peculiarly penetrating,
or the chapel was the centre of the system of the house. On the roof
would Donal often sit listening to the sounds that rose through the
shaft--airs and harmonies freed by her worshipping
fingers--rejoicing to think how her spirit was following the sounds,
guided by them in lovely search after her native country.
One day she went on playing till she forgot everything but her
music, and almost unconsciously began to sing "The Lord is mindful
of his own." She was unaware that she had two listeners--one on the
roof above, one in the chapel below.
When twelve months were come and gone since his departure, the earl
one bright morning approached the door of the castle, half doubting,
half believing it his own: he was determined on dismissing the
factor after rigorous examination of his accounts; and he wanted to
see Davie. He had driven to the stables, and thence walked out on
the uppermost terrace, passing the chapel without observing its
unmasked windows. The great door was standing open: he went in, and
up the stair, haunted by sounds of music he had been hearing ever
since he stepped on the terrace.
But on the stair was a door he had never seen! Who dared make
changes in his house? The thing was bewildering! But he was
accustomed to be bewildered.
He opened the door--plainly a new one--and entered a gloomy little
passage, lighted from a small aperture unfit to be called a window.
The under side of the bare steps of a narrow stone stair were above
his head. Had he or had he not ever seen the place before? On the
right was a door. He went to it, opened it, and the hitherto muffled
music burst loud on his ear. He started back in dismal
apprehension:--there was the chapel, wide open to the eye of
day!--clear and clean!--gone the hideous bed! gone the damp and the
dust! while the fresh air trembled with the organ-breath rushing and
rippling through it, and setting it in sweetest turmoil! He had
never had such a peculiar experience! He had often doubted whether
things were or were not projections from his own brain; he moved and
acted in a world of subdued fact and enhanced fiction; he knew that
sometimes he could not tell the one from the other; but never had he
had the apparently real and the actually unreal brought so much face
to face with each other! Everything was as clear to his eyes as in
their prime of vision, and yet there could be no reality in what he
Ever since he left the castle he had been greatly uncertain whether
the things that seemed to have taken place there, had really taken
place. He got himself in doubt about them the moment he failed to
find the key of the oak door. When he asked himself what then could
have become of his niece, he would reply that doubtless she was all
right: she did not want to marry Forgue, and had slipped out of the
way: she had never cared about the property! To have their own will
was all women cared about! Would his factor otherwise have dared
such liberties with him, the lady's guardian? He had not yet
rendered his accounts, or yielded his stewardship. When she died the
property would be his! if she was dead, it was his! She would never
have dreamed of willing it away from him! She did not know she
could: how should she? girls never thought about such things!
Besides she would not have the heart: he had loved her as his own
flesh and blood!
At intervals, nevertheless, he was assailed, at times overwhelmed,
by the partial conviction that he had starved her to death in the
chapel. Then he was tormented as with all the furies of hell. In his
night visions he would see her lie wasting, hear her moaning, and
crying in vain for help: the hardest heart is yet at the mercy of a
roused imagination. He saw her body in its progressive stages of
decay as the weeks passed, and longed for the process to be over,
that he might go back, and pretending to have just found the lost
room, carry it away, and have it honourably buried! Should he take
it for granted that it had lain there for centuries, or suggest it
must be lady Arctura--that she had got shut up there, like the bride
in the chest? If he could but find an old spring lock to put on the
door! But people were so plaguy sharp nowadays! They found out
everything!--he could not afford to have everything found out!--God
himself must not be allowed to know everything!
He stood staring. As he stood and stared, his mind began to change:
perhaps, after all, what he saw, might be! The whole thing it had
displaced must then be a fancy--a creation of the dreaming brain!
God in heaven! if it could but be proven that he had never done it!
All the other wicked things he was--or supposed himself guilty
of--some of them so heavy that it had never seemed of the smallest
use to repent of them--all the rest might be forgiven him!--But what
difference would that make to the fact that he had done them? He
could never take his place as a gentleman where all was known! They
made such a fuss about a sin or two, that a man went and did worse
out of pure despair!
But if he had never murdered anybody! In that case he could almost
consent there should be a God! he could almost even thank him!--For
what! That he was not to be damned for the thing he had not done--a
thing he had had the misfortune to dream he had done--God never
interfering to protect him from the horrible fancy? What was the
good of a God that would not do that much for you--that left his
creatures to make fools of themselves, and only laughed at
them!--Bah! There was life in the old dog yet! If only he knew the
thing for a fancy!
The music ceased, and the silence was a shock to him. Again he began
to stare about him. He looked up. Before him in the air hovered the
pale face of the girl he had--or had not murdered! It was one of his
visions--but not therefore more unreal than any other appearance:
she came from the world of his imagination--so real to him that in
expectant moods it was the world into which he was to step the
moment he left the body. She looked sweetly at him! She was come to
forgive his sins! Was it then true? Was there no sin of murder on
his soul? Was she there to assure him that he might yet hope for the
world to come? He stretched out his arms to her. She turned away. He
thought she had vanished. The next moment she was in the chapel, but
he did not hear her, and stood gazing up. She threw her arms around
him. The contact of the material startled him with such a revulsion,
that he uttered a cry, staggered back, and stood looking at her in
worse perplexity still. He had done the awful thing, yet had not
done it! He stood as one bound to know the thing that could not be.
"Don't be frightened, uncle," said Arctura. "I am not dead. The
sepulchre is the only resurrection-house! Uncle, uncle! thank God
The earl stood motionless. Strange thoughts passed through him at
their will. Had her presence dispelled darkness and death, and
restored the lost chapel to the light of day? Had she haunted it
ever since, dead yet alive, watching for his return to pardon him?
Would his wife so receive him at the last with forgiveness and
endearment? His eyes were fixed upon her. His lips moved tremulously
once or twice, but no word came. He turned from her, glanced round
the place, and said,
"It is a great improvement!"
I wonder how it would be with souls if they waked up and found all
their sins but hideous dreams! How many would loathe the sin? How
many would remain capable of doing all again? But few, perhaps no
burdened souls can have any idea of the power that lies in God's
forgiveness to relieve their consciousness of defilement. Those who
say, "Even God cannot destroy the fact!" care more about their own
cursed shame than their Father's blessed truth! Such will rather
excuse than confess. When a man heartily confesses, leaving excuse
to God, the truth makes him free, he knows that the evil has gone
from him, as a man knows that he is cured of his plague.
"I did the thing," he says, "but I could not do it now. I am the
same, yet not the same. I confess, I would not hide it, but I loathe
it--ten times the more that the evil thing was mine."
Had the earl been able to say thus, he would have felt his soul a
cleansed chapel, new-opened to the light and air;--nay, better--a
fresh-watered garden, in which the fruits of the spirit had begun to
grow! God's forgiveness is as the burst of a spring morning into the
heart of winter. His autumn is the paying of the uttermost farthing.
To let us go without that would be the pardon of a demon, not the
forgiveness of the eternally loving God. But--Not yet, alas, not
yet! has to be said over so many souls!
Arctura was struck dumb. She turned and walked out upon the great
stair, her uncle following her. All the way up to the second floor
she felt as if he were about to stab her in the back, but she would
not look behind her. She went straight to her room, and heard her
uncle go on to his. She rang her bell, sent for Donal, and told him
what had passed.
"I will go to him," said Donal.
Arctura said nothing more, thus leaving the matter entirely in his
Donal found him lying on the couch.
"My lord," he said, "you must be aware of the reasons why you should
not present yourself here!"
The earl started up in one of his ready rages:--they were real
enough! With epithets of contemptuous hatred, he ordered Donal from
the room and the house. Donal answered nothing till the rush of his
wrath had abated.
"My lord," he said, "there is nothing I would not do to serve your
lordship. But I have no choice but tell you that if you do not walk
out, you shall be expelled!"
"Expelled, you dog!"
"Expelled, my lord. The would-be murderer of his hostess must at
least be put out of the house."
"Good heavens!" cried the earl, changing his tone with an attempted
laugh, "has the poor, hysterical girl succeeded in persuading a man
of your sense to believe her childish fancies?"
"I believe every word my lady says, my lord. I know that you had
nearly murdered her."
The earl caught up the poker and struck at his head. Donal avoided
the blow. It fell on the marble chimney-piece. While his arm was yet
jarred by the impact, Donal wrenched the poker from him.
"My lord," he said, "with my own hands I drew the staple of the
chain that fastened her to the bed on which you left her to die! You
were yet in the house when I did so."
"You damned rascal, you stole the key. If it had not been for that I
should have gone to her again. I only wanted to bring her to
"But as you had lost the key, rather than expose your cruelty, you
went away, and left her to perish! You wanted her to die unless you
could compel her to marry your son, that the title and property
might go together; and that when with my own ears I heard your
lordship tell that son that he had no right to any title!"
"What a man may say in a rage goes for nothing," answered the earl,
sulkily rather than fiercely.
"But not what a woman writes in sorrow!" rejoined Donal. "I know the
truth from the testimony of her you called your wife, as well as
from your own mouth!"
"The testimony of the dead, and at second hand, will hardly be
received in court!" returned the earl.
"If after your lordship's death, the man now called lord Forgue
dares assume the title of Morven, I will publish what I know. In
view of that, your lordship had better furnish him with the vouchers
of his mother's marriage. My lord, I again beg you to leave the
The earl cast his eyes round the walls as if looking for a weapon.
Donal took him by the arm.
"There is no farther room for ceremony," he said. "I am sorry to be
rough with your lordship, but you compel me. Please remember I am
the younger and the stronger man."
As he spoke he let the earl feel the ploughman's grasp: it was
useless to struggle. His lordship threw himself on the couch.
"I will not leave the house. I am come home to die," he yelled. "I'm
dying now, I tell you. I cannot leave the house! I have no money.
Forgue has taken all."
"You owe a large sum to the estate!" said Donal.
"It is lost--all lost, I tell you! I have nowhere to go to! I am
He looked so utterly wretched that Donal's heart smote him. He stood
back a little, and gave himself time.
"You would wish then to retire, my lord, I presume?" he said.
"Immediately--to be rid of you!" the earl answered.
"I fear, my lord, if you stay, you will not soon be rid of me! Have
you brought Simmons with you?"
"No, damn him! he is like all the rest of you: he has left me!"
"I will help you to bed, my lord."
"Go about your business. I will get myself to bed."
"I will not leave you except in bed," rejoined Donal with decision;
and ringing the bell, he desired the servant to ask mistress Brookes
to come to him.
She came instantly. Before the earl had time even to look at her,
Donal asked her to get his lordship's bed ready:--if she would not
mind doing it herself, he said, he would help her: he must see his
lordship to bed.
She looked a whole book at him, but said nothing. Donal returned her
gaze with one of quiet confidence, and she understood it. What it
said was, "I know what I am doing, mistress Brookes. My lady must
not turn him out. I will take care of him."
"What are you two whispering at there?" cried the earl. "Here am I
at the point of death, and you will not even let me go to bed!"
"Your room will be ready in a few minutes, my lord," said Mrs.
Brookes; and she and Donal went to work in earnest, but with the
door open between the rooms.
When it was ready,
"Now, my lord," said Donal, "will you come?"
"When you are gone. I will have none of your cursed help!"
"My lord, I am not going to leave you."
With much grumbling, and a very ill grace, his lordship submitted,
and Donal got him to bed.
"Now put that cabinet by me on the table," he said.
The cabinet was that in which he kept his drugs, and had not been
touched since he left it.
Donal opened the window, took up the cabinet, and threw it out.
With a bellow like that of a bull, the earl sprang out of bed, and
just as the crash came from below, ran at Donal where he stood
shutting the window, as if he would have sent him after the cabinet.
Donal caught him and held him fast.
"My lord," he said, "I will nurse you, serve you, do anything,
everything for you; but for the devil I'll be damned if I move hand
or foot! Not one drop of hellish stuff shall pass your lips while I
am with you!"
"But I am dying! I shall die of the horrors!" shrieked the earl,
struggling to get to the window, as if he might yet do something to
save his precious extracts, tinctures, essences, and compounds.
"We will send for the doctor," said Donal. "A very clever young
fellow has come to the town since you left: perhaps he can help you.
I will do what I can to make you give your life fair play."
"Come, come! none of that damned rubbish! My life is of no end of
value to me! Besides, it's too late. If I were young now, with a
constitution like yours, and the world before me, there might be
some good in a paring or two of self-denial; but you wouldn't stab
your murderer for fear of the clasp knife closing on your hand! you
would not fire your pistol at him for fear of its bursting and
blowing your brains out!"
"I have no desire to keep you alive, my lord; but I would give my
life to let you get some of the good of this world before you pass
to the next. To lengthen your life infinitely, I would not give you
a single drop of any one of those cursed drugs!"
He rang the bell again.
"You're a friendly fellow!" grunted his lordship, and went back to
his bed to ponder how to gain the solace of his passion.
Mrs. Brookes came.
"Will you please send to Mr. Avory, the new surgeon," said Donal,
"and ask him, in my name, to come to the castle."
The earl was so ill, however, as to be doubtful, much as he desired
them, whether, while rendering him for the moment less sensible to
them, any of his drugs would do no other than increase his
sufferings. He lay with closed eyes, a strange expression of pain
mingled with something like fear every now and then passing over his
face. I doubt if his conscience troubled him. It is in general
those, I think, who through comparatively small sins have come to
see the true nature of them, whose consciences trouble them greatly.
Those who have gone from bad to worse through many years of moral
decay, are seldom troubled as other men, or have any bands in their
death. His lordship, it is true, suffered terribly at times because
of the things he had done; but it was through the medium of a roused
imagination rather than a roused conscience: the former deals with
consequences; the latter with the deeds themselves.
He declared he would see no doctor but his old attendant Dowster,
yet all the time was longing for the young man to appear: he
might--who could tell?--save him from the dreaded jaws of death!
He came. Donal went to him. He had summoned him, he said, without
his lordship's consent, but believed he would see him; the earl had
been long in the habit of using narcotics and stimulants, though not
alcohol, he thought; he trusted Mr. Avory would give his sanction to
the entire disuse of them, for they were killing him, body and soul.
"To give them up at once and entirely would cost him considerable
suffering," said the doctor.
"He knows that, and does not in the least desire to give them up. It
is absolutely necessary he should be delivered from the passion."
"If I am to undertake the case, it must be after my own judgment,"
said the doctor.
"You must undertake two things, or give up the case," persisted
"I may as well hear what they are."
"One is, that you make his final deliverance from the habit your
object; the other, that you will give no medicine into his own
"I agree to both; but all will depend on his nurse."
"I will be his nurse."
The doctor went to see his patient. The earl gave one glance at him,
recognized firmness, and said not a word. But when he would have
applied to his wrist an instrument recording in curves the motions
of the pulse, he would not consent. He would have no liberties taken
with him, he said.
"My lord, it is but to inquire into the action of your heart," said
"I'll have no spying into my heart! It acts just like other
The doctor put his instrument aside, and laid his finger on the
pulse instead: his business was to help, not to conquer, he said to
himself: if he might not do what he would, he would do what he
While he was with the earl, Donal found lady Arctura, and told her
all he had done. She thanked him for understanding her.
A SLOW TRANSITION.
A dreary time followed. Sometimes the patient would lie awake half
the night, howling with misery, and accusing Donal of heartless
cruelty. He knew as well as he what would ease his pain and give him
sleep, but not a finger would he move to save him! He was taking the
meanest of revenges! What did it matter to him what became of his
soul! Surely it was worse to hate as he made him hate than to
swallow any amount of narcotics!
"I tell you, Grant," he said once, "I was never so cruel to those I
treated worst. There's nothing in the Persian hells, which beat all
the rest, to come up to what I go through for want of my comfort.
Promise to give it me, and I will tell you where to find some."
As often as Donal refused he would break out in a torrent of curses,
then lie still for a space.
"How do you think you will do without it," Donal once rejoined,
"when you find yourself bodiless in the other world?"
"I'm not there yet! When that comes, it will be under new
conditions, if not unconditioned altogether. We'll take the world we
have. So, my dear boy, just go and get me what I want. There are the
"I dare not."
"You wish to kill me!"
"I wouldn't keep you alive to eat opium. I have other work than
that. Not a finger would I move to save a life for such a life. But
I would willingly risk my own to make you able to do without it.
There would be some good in that!"
"Oh, damn your preaching!"
But the force of the habit abated a little. Now and then it seemed
to return as strong as ever, but the fit went off again. His
sufferings plainly decreased.
The doctor, having little yet of a practice, was able to be with him
several hours every day, so that Donal could lie down. As he grew
better, Davie, or mistress Brookes, or lady Arctura would sit with
him. But Donal was never farther off than the next room. The earl's
madness was the worst of any, a moral madness: it could not fail to
affect the brain, but had not yet put him beyond his own control.
Repeatedly had Donal been on the verge of using force to restrain
him, but had not yet found himself absolutely compelled to do so:
fearless of him, he postponed it always to the very last, and the
last had not yet arrived.
The gentle ministrations of his niece by and by seemed to touch him.
He was growing to love her a little, He would smile when she came
into the room, and ask her how she did. Once he sat looking at her
for some time--then said,
"I hope I did not hurt you much."
"When?" she asked.
"Then," he answered.
"Oh, no; you did not hurt me--much!"
"Another time, I was very cruel to your aunt: do you think she will
"Yes, I do."
"Then you have forgiven me?"
"Of course I have."
"Then of course God will forgive me too!"
"He will--if you leave off, you know, uncle."
"That's more than I can promise."
"If you try, he will help you."
"How can he? It is a second nature now!"
"He is your first nature. He can help you too by taking away the
body and its nature together."
"You're a fine comforter! God will help me to be good by taking away
my life! A nice encouragement to try! Hadn't I better kill myself
and save him the trouble!"
"It's not the dying, uncle! no amount of dying would ever make one
good. It might only make it less difficult to be good."
"But I might after all refuse to be good! I feel sure I should! He
had better let me alone!"
"God can do more than that to compel us to be good--a great deal
more than that! Indeed, uncle, we must repent."
He said no more for some minutes; then suddenly spoke again.
"I suppose you mean to marry that rascal of a tutor!" he said.
She started up, and called Donal. But to her relief he did not
answer: he was fast asleep.
"He would not thank you for the suggestion, I fear," she said,
sitting down again. "He is far above me!"
"Is there no chance for Forgue then?"
"Not the smallest. I would rather have died where you left me
"If you love me, don't mention that!" he cried. "I was not
myself--indeed I was not! I don't know now--that is, I can't believe
sometimes I ever did it."
"Uncle, have you asked God to forgive you!"
"I have--a thousand times."
"Then I will never speak of it again."
In general, however, he was sullen, cantankerous, abusive. They were
all compassionate to him, treating him like a spoiled, but not the
less in reality a sickly child. Arctura thought her grandmother
could not have brought him up well; more might surely have been made
of him. But Arctura had him after a lifetime fertile in cause of
self-reproach, had him in the net of sore sickness, at the mercy of
the spirit of God. He was a bad old child--this much only the wiser
for being old, that he had found the ways of transgressors hard.
One night Donal, hearing him restless, got up from the chair where
he watched by him most nights, and saw him staring, but not seeing:
his eyes showed that they regarded nothing material. After a moment
he gave a great sigh, and his jaw fell. Donal thought he was dead.
But presently he came to himself like one escaping from torture: a
terrible dream was behind him, pulling at the skirts of his
"I've seen her!" he said. "She's waiting for me to take me--but
where I do not know. She did not look angry, but then she seldom
looked angry when I was worst to her!--Grant, I beg of you, don't
lose sight of Davie. Make a man of him, and his mother will thank
you. She was a good woman, his mother, though I did what I could to
spoil her! It was no use! I never could!--and that was how she kept
her hold of me. If I had succeeded, there would have been an end of
her power, and a genuine heir to the earldom! What a damned fool I
was to let it out! Who would have been the worse!"
"He's a heartless, unnatural rascal, though," he resumed, "and has
made of me the fool I deserved to be made! His mother must see it
was not my fault! I would have set things right if I could! But it
was too late! And you tell me she has had a hand in letting the
truth out--leaving her letters about!--That's some comfort! She was
always fair, and will be the less hard on me. If I could see a
chance of God being half as good to me as my poor wife. She was my
wife! I will say it in spite of all the priests in the stupid
universe! She was my wife, and deserved to be my wife; and if I had
her now, I would marry her, because she would be foolish enough to
like it, though I would not do it all the time she was alive, let
her beg ever so! Where was the use of giving in, when I kept her in
hand so easily that way? That was it! It was not that I wanted to do
her any wrong. But you should keep the lead. A man mustn't play out
his last trump and lose the lead. But then you never know about
dying! If I had known my poor wife was going to die, I would have
done whatever she wanted. We had merry times together! It was those
cursed drugs that wiled the soul out of me, and then the devil went
in and took its place!--There was curara in that last medicine, I'll
swear!--Look you here now, Grant:--if there were any way of
persuading God to give me a fresh lease of life! You say he hears
prayer: why shouldn't you ask him? I would make you any promise you
pleased--give you any security you wanted, hereafter to live a
godly, righteous, and sober life."
"But," said Donal, "suppose God, reading your heart, saw that you
would go on as bad as ever, and that to leave you any longer would
only be to make it the more difficult for him to do anything with
"He might give me a chance! It is hard to expect a poor fellow to be
as good as he is himself!"
"The poor fellow was made in his image!" suggested Donal.
"Very poorly made then!" said the earl with a sneer. "We might as
well have been made in some other body's image!"
Donal thought with himself.
Did you ever know a good woman, my lord?" he asked.
"Know a good woman?--Hundreds of them!--The other sort was more to
my taste! but there was my own mother! She was rather hard on my
father now and then, but she was a good woman."
"Suppose you had been in her image, what then?"
"You would have had some respect for me!"
"Then she was nearer the image of God than you?"
"Thousands of miles!"
"Did you ever know a bad woman?"
"Know a bad woman? Hundreds that would take your heart's blood as
you slept to make a philtre with!"
"Then you saw a difference between such a woman and your mother?"
"The one was of heaven, the other of hell--that was all the little
"Did you ever know a bad woman grow better?"
"No, never.--Stop! let me see" I did once know a woman--she was a
married woman too--that made it all the worse--all the better I
mean: she took poison--in good earnest, and died--died, sir--died, I
say--when she came to herself, and knew what she had done! That was
the only woman I ever knew that grew better. How long she might have
gone on better if she hadn't taken the poison, I can't tell. That
fixed her good, you see!"
"If she had gone on, she might have got as good as your mother?"
"Oh, hang it! no; I did not say that!"
"I mean, with God teaching her all the time--for ten thousand years,
say--and she always doing what he told her!"
"Oh, well! I don't know anything about that. I don't know what God
had to do with my mother being so good! She was none of your canting
"There is an old story," said Donal, "of a man who was the very
image of God, and ever so much better than the best of women."
"He couldn't have been much of a man then!"
"Were you ever afraid, my lord?"
"Yes, several times--many a time."
"That man never knew what fear was."
"His mother was good, and he was better: your mother was good, and
you are worse! Whose fault is that?"
"My own; I'm not ashamed to confess it!"
"Would to God you were!" said Donal: "you shame your mother in being
worse than she was. You were made in the image of God, but you don't
look like him now any more than you look like your mother. I have a
father and mother, my lord, as like God as they can look!"
"Of course! of course! In their position there are no such
temptations as in ours!"
"I am sure of one thing, my lord--that you will never be at any
peace until you begin to show the image in which you were made. By
that time you will care for nothing so much as that he should have
his way with you and the whole world."
"It will be long before I come to that!"
"Probably; but you will never have a moment's peace till you begin.
It is no use talking though. God has not made you miserable enough
"I am more miserable than you can think."
"Why don't you cry to him to deliver you?"
"I would kill myself if it weren't for one thing."
"It is from yourself he would deliver you."
"I would, but that I want to put off seeing my wife as long as I
"I thought you wanted to see her!"
"I long for her sometimes more than tongue can tell."
"And you don't want to see her?"
"Not yet; not just yet. I should like to be a little better--to do
something or other--I don't know what--first. I doubt if she would
touch me now--with that small, firm hand she would catch hold of me
with when I hurt her. By Jove, if she had been a man, she would have
made her mark in the world! She had a will and a way with her! If it
hadn't been that she loved me--me, do you hear, you dog!--though
there's nobody left to care a worm-eaten nut about me, it makes me
proud as Lucifer merely to think of it! I don't care if there's
never another to love me to all eternity! I have been loved as never
man was loved! All for my own sake, mind you! In the way of money I
was no great catch; and for the rank, she never got any good of
that, nor would if she had lived till I was earl; she had a
conscience--which I never had--and would never have consented to be
called countess. 'It will be no worse than passing for my wife now,'
I would say. 'What's either but an appearance? What's any thing of
all the damned humbug but appearance? One appearance is as good as
another appearance!' She would only smile--smile fit to make a mule
sad! And then when her baby was dying, and she wanted me to take her
for a minute, and I wouldn't! She laid her down, and got what she
wanted herself, and when she went to take the child again, the
absurd little thing was--was--gone--dead, I mean gone dead, never to
cry any more! There it lay motionless, like a lump of white clay.
She looked at me--and never--in this world--smiled again!--nor cried
either--all I could do to make her!"
The wretched man burst into tears, and the heart of Donal gave a
leap for joy. Common as tears are, fall as they may for the
foolishest things, they may yet be such as to cause joy in paradise.
The man himself may not know why he weeps, and his tears yet
indicate his turning on his road. The earl was as far from a good
man as man well could be; there were millions of spiritual miles
betwixt him and the image of God; he had wept it was hard to say at
what--not at his own cruelty, not at his wife's suffering, not in
pity of the little soul that went away at last out of no human
embrace; himself least of all could have told why he wept; yet was
that weeping some sign of contact between his human soul and the
great human soul of God; it was the beginning of a possible
communion with the Father of all! Surely God saw this, and knew the
heart he had made--saw the flax smoking yet! He who will not let us
out until we have paid the uttermost farthing, rejoices over the
offer of the first golden grain.
Donal dropped on his knees and prayed:--
"O Father of us all!" he said, "in whose hands are these unruly
hearts of ours, we cannot manage ourselves; we ruin our own selves;
but in thee is our help found!"
Prayer went from him; he rose from his knees.
"Go on; go on; don't stop!" cried the earl. "He may hear you--who
Donal went down on his knees again.
"O God!" he said, "thou knowest us, whether we speak to thee or not;
take from this man his hardness of heart. Make him love thee."
There he stopped again. He could say no more.
"I can't pray, my lord," he said, rising. "I don't know why. It
seems as if nothing I said meant anything. I will pray for you when
I am alone."
"Are there so many devils about me that an honest fellow can't pray
in my company?" cried the earl. "I will pray myself, in spite of the
whole swarm of them, big and little!--O God, save me! I don't want
to be damned. I will be good if thou wilt make me. I don't care
about it myself, but thou canst do as thou pleasest. It would be a
fine thing if a rascal like me were to escape the devil through thy
goodness after all. I'm worth nothing, but there's my wife! Pray,
pray, Lord God, let me one day see my wife again!--For Christ's
sake--ain't that the way, Grant?--Amen."
Donal had dropped on his knees once more when the earl began to
pray. He uttered a hearty Amen. The earl turned sharply towards him,
and saw he was weeping. He put out his hand to him, and said,
"You'll stand my friend, Grant?"
Suddenly what strength lady Arctura had, gave way, and she began to
sink. But it was spring with the summer at hand; they hoped she
would recover sufficiently to be removed to a fitter climate. She
did not herself think so. She had hardly a doubt that her time was
come. She was calm, often cheerful, but her spirits were variable.
Donal's heart was sorer than he had thought it could be again.
One day, having been reading a little to her, he sat looking at her.
He did not know how sad was the expression of his countenance. She
looked up, smiled, and said,
"You think I am unhappy!--you could not look at me like that if you
did not think so! I am only tired; I am not unhappy. I hardly know
now what unhappiness is! If ever I look as if I were unhappy, it is
only that I am waiting for more life. It is on the way; I feel it
is, because I am so content with everything; I would have nothing
other than it is. It is very hard for God that his children will not
trust him to do with them what he pleases! I am sure, Mr. Grant, the
world is all wrong, and on the way to be all wondrously right. It
will cost God much labour yet: we will cost him as little as we
can--won't we?--Oh, Mr. Grant, if it hadn't been for you, God would
have been far away still! For a God I should have had something half
an idol, half a commonplace tyrant! I should never have dreamed of
the glory of God!"
"No, my lady!" returned Donal; "if God had not sent me, he would
have sent somebody else; you were ready!"
"I am very glad he sent you! I should never have loved any other so
Donal's eyes filled with tears. He was simple as a child. No male
vanity, no self-exultation that a woman should love him, and tell
him she loved him, sprang up in his heart. He knew she loved him; he
loved her; all was so natural it could not be otherwise: he never
presumed to imagine her once thinking of him as he had thought of
Ginevra. He was her servant, willing and loving as any angel of God:
that was all--and enough!
"You are not vexed with your pupil--are you?" she resumed, again
looking up in his face, this time with a rosy flush on her own.
"Why?" said Donal, with wonder.
"For speaking so to my master."
"Angry because you love me?"
"No, of course!" she responded, at once satisfied. "You knew that
must be! How could I but love you--better than any one else in the
world! You have given me life! I was dead.--You have been like
another father to me!" she added, with a smile of heavenly
tenderness. "But I could not have spoken to you like this, if I had
not known I was dying."
The word shot a sting as of fire through Donal's heart.
"You are always a child, Mr. Grant," she went on; "death is making a
child of me; it makes us all children: as if we were two little
children together, I tell you I love you.--Don't look like that,"
she continued; "you must not forget what you have been teaching me
all this time--that the will of God, the perfect God, is all in all!
He is not a God far off: to know that is enough to have lived for!
You have taught me that, and I love you with a true heart
Donal could not speak. He knew she was dying.
"Mr. Grant," she began again, "my soul is open to his eyes, and is
not ashamed. I know I am going to do what would by the world be
counted unwomanly; but you and I stand before our Father, not before
the world. I ask you in plain words, knowing that if you cannot do
as I ask you willingly, you will not do it. And be sure I shall
plainly be dying before I claim the fulfilment of your promise if
you give it. I do not want your answer all at once: you must think
Here she paused a while, then said,
"I want you to marry me, if you will, before I go."
Donal could not yet speak. His soul was in a tumult of emotion.
"I am tired," she said. "Please go and think it over. If you say no,
I shall only say, 'He knows best what is best!' I shall not be
ashamed. Only you must not once think what the world would say: of
all people we have nothing to do with the world! We have nothing to
do but with God and love! If he be pleased with us, we can afford to
smile at what his silly children think of us: they mind only what
their vulgar nurses say, not what their perfect father says: we need
not mind them--need we?--I wonder at myself," she went on, for Donal
did not utter a word, "for being able to speak like this; but then I
have been thinking of it for a long time--chiefly as I lie awake. I
am never afraid now--not though I lie awake all night: 'perfect love
casteth out fear,' you know. I have God to love, and Jesus to love,
and you to love, and my own father to love! When you know him, you
will see how good a man can be without having been brought up like
you!--Oh, Donal, do say something, or I shall cry, and crying kills
She was sitting on a low chair, with the sunlight across her
lap--for she was again in the sunny Garland-room--and the firelight
on her face. Donal knelt gently down, and laid his hands in the
sunlight on her lap, just as if he were going to say his prayers at
his mother's knee. She laid both her hands on his.
"I have something to tell you," he said; "and then you must speak
"Tell me," said Arctura, with a little gasp.
"When I came here," said Donal, "I thought my heart so broken that
it would never love--that way, I mean--any more. But I loved God
better than ever: and as one I would fain help, I loved you from the
very first. But I should have scorned myself had I once fancied you
loved me more than just to do anything for me I needed done. When I
saw you troubled, I longed to take you up in my arms, and carry you
like a lovely bird that had fallen from one of God's nests; but
never once, my lady, did I think of your caring for my love: it was
yours as a matter of course. I once asked a lady to kiss me--just
once, for a good-bye: she would not--and she was quite right; but
after that I never spoke to a lady but she seemed to stand far away
on the top of a hill against a sky."
He stopped. Her hands on his fluttered a little, as if they would
"Is she still--is she--alive?" she asked.
"Oh yes, my lady."
"Then she may--change--" said Arctura, and stopped, for there was a
stone in her heart.
Donal laughed. It was an odd laugh, but it did Arctura good.
"No danger of that, my lady! She has the best husband in the
world--a much better than I should have made, much as I loved her."
"That can't be!"
"Why, my lady, her husband's sir Gibbie! She's lady Galbraith! I
would never have wished her mine if I had known she loved Gibbie. I
love her next to him."
"What, my lady?"
"Then--then--Oh, do say something!"
"What should I say? What God wills is fast as the roots of the
universe, and lovely as its blossom."
Arctura burst into tears.
"Then you do not--care for me!"
Donal began to understand. In some things he went on so fast that he
could not hear the cry behind him. She had spoken, and had been
listening in vain for response! She thought herself unloved: he had
shown her no sign that he loved her!
His heart was so full of love and the joy of love, that they had
made him very still: now the delight of love awoke. He took her in
his arms like a child, rose, and went walking about the room with
her, petting and soothing her. He held her close to his heart; her
head was on his shoulder, and his face was turned to hers.
"I love you," he said, "and love you to all eternity! I have love
enough now to live upon, if you should die to-night, and I should
tarry till he come. O God, thou art too good to me! It is more than
my heart can bear! To make men and women, and give them to each
other, and not be one moment jealous of the love wherewith they love
one another, is to be a God indeed!"
So said Donal--and spoke the high truth. But alas for the love
wherewith men and women love each other! There were small room for
God to be jealous of that! It is the little love with which they
love each other, the great love with which they love themselves,
that hurts the heart of their father.
Arctura signed at length a prayer for release, and he set her gently
down in her chair again. Then he saw her face more beautiful than
ever before; and the rose that bloomed there was the rose of a
health deeper than sickness. These children of God were of the
blessed few who love the more that they know him present, whose
souls are naked before him, and not ashamed. Let him that hears
understand! if he understand not, let him hold his peace, and it
will be his wisdom! He who has no place for this love in his
religion, who thinks to be more holy without it, is not of God's
mind when he said, "Let us make man!" He may be a saint, but he
cannot be a man after God's own heart. The finished man is the saved
man. The saint may have to be saved from more than sin.
"When shall we be married?" asked Donal.
"Soon, soon," answered Arctura.
"No, not to-morrow: there is no such haste--now that we understand
each other," she added with a rosy smile. "I want to be married to
you before I die, that is all--not just to-morrow, or the next day."
"When you please, my love," said Donal.
She laid her head on his bosom.
"We are as good as married now," she said: "we know that each loves
the other! How I shall wait for you! You will be mine, you know--a
little bit mine--won't you?--even if you should marry some beautiful
lady after I am gone?--I shall love her when she comes."
"Arctura!" said Donal.
A WILL AND A WEDDING.
But the opening of the windows of heaven, and the unspeakable rush
of life through channels too narrow and banks too weak to hold its
tide, caused a terrible inundation: the red flood broke its banks,
and weakened all the land.
Arctura sent for Mr. Graeme, and commissioned him to fetch the
family lawyer from Edinburgh. Alone with him she gave instructions
concerning her will. The man of business shrugged his shoulders,
laden with so many petty weights, bowed down with so many falsest
opinions, and would have expostulated with her.
"Sir!" she said.
"You have a cousin who inherits the title!" he suggested.
"Mr. Fortune," she returned, "it may be I know as much of my family
as you. I did not send for you to consult you, but to tell you how I
would have my will drawn up!"
"I beg your pardon, my lady," rejoined the lawyer, "but there are
things which may make it one's duty to speak out."
"Speak then; I will listen--that you may ease your mind."
He began a long, common-sense, worldly talk on the matter, nor once
repeated himself. When he stopped,--
"Now have you eased your mind?" she asked.
"I have, my lady."
"Then listen to me. There is no necessity you should hurt either
your feelings or your prejudices. If it goes against your conscience
to do as I wish, I will not trouble you."
Mr. Fortune bowed, took his instructions, and rose.
"When will you bring it me?" she asked.
"In the course of a week or two, my lady."
"If it is not in my hands by the day after to-morrow, I will send
for a gentleman from the town to prepare it."
"You shall have it, my lady," said Mr. Fortune.
She did have it, and it was signed and witnessed.
Then she sank more rapidly. Donal said no word about the marriage:
it should be as she pleased! He was much by her bedside, reading to
her when she was able to listen, talking to her or sitting silent
when she was not.
Arctura had at once told mistress Brookes the relation in which she
and Donal stood to each other. It cost the good woman many tears,
for she thought such a love one of the saddest things in a sad
world. Neither Arctura nor Donal thought so.
The earl at this time was a little better, though without prospect
of even temporary recovery. He had grown much gentler, and sadness
had partially displaced his sullenness. He seemed to have become in
a measure aware of the bruteness of the life he had hitherto led: he
must have had a glimpse of something better. It is wonderful what
the sickness which human stupidity regards as the one evil thing,
can do towards redemption! He showed concern at his niece's illness,
and had himself carried down every other day to see her for a few
minutes. She received him always with the greatest gentleness, and
he showed something that seemed like genuine affection for her.
It was a morning in the month of May--
The naked twigs were shivering all for cold--
when Donal, who had been with Arctura the greater part of the night,
and now lay on the couch in a neighbouring room, heard Mrs. Brookes
"My lady wants you, sir," she said.
He started up, and went to her.
"Send for the minister," she whispered, "--not Mr. Carmichael; he
does not know you. Send for Mr. Graeme too: he and mistress Brookes
will be witnesses. I must call you husband once before I die!"
"I hope you will many a time after!" he returned.
She smiled on him with a look of love unutterable.
"Mind," she said, holding out her arms feebly, but drawing him fast
to her bosom, "that this is how I love you! When you see me dull and
stupid, and I hardly look at you--for though death makes bright,
dying makes stupid--then say to yourself, 'This is not how she loves
me; it is only how she is dying! She loves me and knows it--and by
and by will be able to show it!'"
They were precious words both then and afterwards!
With some careful questioning, to satisfy himself that, so evidently
at the gate of death she yet knew perfectly her own mind,--and not
without some shakes of the head revealing disapprobation, the
minister did as he was requested, and wrote a certificate of the
fact, which was duly signed and witnessed.
And if he showed his disapproval yet more in the prayer with which
he concluded the ceremony, none but mistress Brookes showed
The bridegroom gave his bride one gentle kiss, and withdrew with the
"Pardon me if I characterize this as a strange proceeding!" said the
"Not so strange perhaps as it looks, sir!" said Donal.
"On the very brink of the other world!"
"The other world and its brink too are his who ordained marriage!"
"For this world only," said the minister.
"The gifts of God are without repentance," said Donal.
"I have heard of you!" returned the clergyman. "You are one, they
tell me, given to misusing scripture."
He had conceived a painful doubt that he had been drawn into some
"Sir!" said Donal sternly, "if you saw any impropriety in the
ceremony, why did you perform it? I beg you will now reserve your
remarks. You ought to have made them before or not at all. If you be
silent, the thing will probably never be heard of, and I should
greatly dislike having it the town-talk."
"Except I see reason--that is, if nothing follow to render
disclosure necessary, I shall be silent," said the minister.
He would have declined the fee offered by Donal; but he was poor,
and its amount prevailed: he accepted it, and took his leave with a
stiffness he intended for dignity: he had a high sense, if not of
the dignity of his office, at least of the dignity his office
conferred on him.
Donal had next a brief interview with Mr. Graeme. The factor was in
a state of utter bewilderment, and readily yielded Donal a promise
of silence: the mere whim of a dying girl, it had better be ignored
and forgotten! As to Grant's part in it he did not know what to
think. It could not affect the property, he thought: it could hardly
be a marriage! And then there was the will--of the contents of which
he knew nothing! If it were a complete marriage, the will was worth
nothing, being made before it!
I will not linger over the quiet, sad time that followed. Donal was
to Arctura, she said, father, brother, husband, in one. Through him
she had reaped the harvest of the world, in spite of falsehood,
murder, fear, and distrust! She lay victorious on the battlefield!
In the heart of her bridegroom reigned a peace the world could not
give or take away. He loved with a love that cast the love of former
days into the shadow of a sweet but undesired remembrance. A long
twilight life lay before him, but he would have plenty to do! and
such was the love between him and Arctura, that every doing of the
will of God was as the tying of a fresh bond between him and her:
she was his because they were the Father's, whose will was the life
and bond of the universe.
"I think," said Donal, that same night by her bed, "when my mother
dies, she will go near you: I will, if I can, send you a message by
her. But it will not matter; it can only tell you what you will know
well enough--that I love you, and am waiting to come to you."
The stupidity of calling oneself a Christian, and doubting if we
shall know our friends hereafter! In those who do not believe such a
doubt is more than natural, but in those who profess to believe, it
shows what a ragged scarecrow is the thing they call their
faith--not worth that of many an old Jew, or that of here and there
"I shall not be far from you, dear, I think--sometimes at least,"
she said, speaking very low. "If you dream anything nice about me,
think I am thinking of you. If you should dream anything not nice,
think something is lying to you about me. I do not know if I shall
be allowed to come near you, but if I am--and I think I shall
be--sometimes, I shall laugh to myself to think how near I am, and
you fancying me a long way off! But any way all will be well, for
the great life, our God, our father, is, and in him we cannot but be
After that she fell into a deep sleep, and slept for hours. Then
suddenly she sat up. Donal put his arm behind and supported her. She
looked a little wild, shuddered, murmured something he could not
understand, then threw herself back into his arms. Her expression
changed to a look of divinest, loveliest content, and she was gone.
When her will was read, it was found that, except some legacies, and
an annuity to Mrs. Brookes, she had left everything to Donal.
Mr. Graeme, rising the moment the lawyer looked up, congratulated
Donal--politely, not cordially, and took his leave.
"If you are walking towards home," said Donal, "I will walk with
"I shall be happy," said Mr. Graeme--feeling it not a little hard
that one who would soon be heir presumptive to the title should have
to tend the family property in the service of a stranger and a
"Lord Morven cannot live long," said Donal as they went. "It is not
to be wished he should."
Mr. Graeme returned no answer. Donal resumed.
"I think I ought to let you know at once that you are heir to the
"I think you owe the knowledge to myself!" said the factor, not
without a touch of contempt.
"By no means," rejoined Donal: "on presumption, after lord Forgue,
you told me;--after lord Morven, I tell you."
"I am at a loss to imagine on what you found such a statement," said
Graeme, beginning to suspect insanity.
"Naturally; no one knows it but myself. Lord Morven knows that his
son cannot succeed, but he does not know that you can. I am
prepared, if not to prove, at least to convince you that he and his
son's mother were not married."
Mr. Graeme was for a moment silent. Then he laughed a little
laugh--not a pleasant one. "Another of Time's clownish tricks!" he
said to himself: "the earl the factor on the family-estate!" Donal
did not like the way he took it, but saw how natural it was.
"I hope you have known me long enough," he said, "to believe I have
"Excuse me, Mr. Grant: the whole business looks suspicious. The girl
was dying! You knew it!"
"I do not understand you."
"What did you marry her for?"
"To make her my wife."
"Pray what could be the good of that except--?"
"Does it need any explanation but that we loved each other?"
"You will find it difficult to convince the world that such was your
"Having no care for the opinion of the world, I shall be satisfied
if I convince you. The world needs never hear of the thing. Would
you, Mr. Graeme, have had me not marry her, because the world,
including not a few honest men like yourself, would say my object
was the property?"
"Don't put the question to me; I am not the proper person to answer
it. There is not a man in a hundred millions who with the chance
would not have done the same, or whom all the rest would not blame
for doing it. It would have been better for you, however, that there
had been no will."
"It makes it look the more like a scheme:--the will might have been
"Why do you say--might have been?"
"Because it is not worth disputing now. If the marriage stands, it
annuls the will."
"I did not know; and I suppose she did not know either. Or perhaps
she wanted to make the thing sure: if the marriage was not enough,
the will would be--she may have thought. But I knew nothing of it."
"You did not?"
"Of course I did not."
Mr. Graeme held his peace. For the first time he doubted Donal's
"But I wanted to have a little talk with you," resumed Donal. "I
want to know whether you think your duty all to the owner of the
land, or in any measure to the tenants also."
"That is easy to answer: one employed by the landlord can owe the
It was not just the answer he would have given to another
"Do you not owe him justice?" asked Donal.
"Every legal advantage I ought to take for my employer."
"Even to the grinding of the faces of the poor?"
"I have nothing to do, as his employé, with my own ideas as to what
may be equitable."
He drew the line thus hard in pure opposition to Donal.
"What then would you say if the land were your own? Would you say
you had it solely for your own and your family's good, or for that
of the tenants as well?"
"I should very likely reason that what was good for them would in
the long run be good for me too.--But if you want to know how I have
treated the tenants, there are intelligent men amongst them, not at
all prejudiced in favour of the factor!"
"I wish you would be open with me," said Donal.
"I prefer keeping my own place," rejoined Mr. Graeme.
"You speak as one who found a change in me," returned Donal. "There
So saying he shook hands with him, bade him good morning, and turned
with the depression of failure.
"I did not lead up to the point properly!" he said to himself.
Mr. Graeme was a good sort of man, and a gentleman; but he was not
capable of meeting Donal on the ground on which he approached him:
on that level he had never set foot. There is nothing more
disappointing to the generous man than the way in which his absolute
frankness is met by the man of the world--always looking out for
motives, and imagining them after what is in himself.
There was great confidence between the brother and sister, and as he
walked homeward, Mr. Graeme was not so well pleased with himself as
to think with satisfaction on the report of the interview he could
give Kate. He did not accuse himself with regard to anything he had
said, but he felt his behaviour influenced by jealousy of the
low-born youth who had supplanted him. For, if Percy could not
succeed to the title, neither could he have succeeded to the
property; and but for the will or the marriage, perhaps but for the
two together, he would himself have come in for that also! The will
was worth nothing except the marriage was disputed: annul the
marriage, and the will was of force!
He told his sister, as nearly as he could, all that had passed
"If he wanted me to talk to him," he said, "why did he tell me that
about Forgue? It was infernally stupid of him! But what's bred in
the bone--! A gentleman 's not made in a day!"
"Nor in a thousand years, Hector!" rejoined his sister. "Donal Grant
is a gentleman in the best sense of the word! That you say he is
not, lets me see you are vexed with yourself. He is a little awkward
sometimes, I confess; but only when he is looking at a thing from
some other point of view, and does not like to say you ought to have
been looking at it from the same. And you can't say he shuffles, for