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The Elect Lady by George MacDonald

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"It is not well, ma'am, to push the bird off because he can't sit safe
on the edge of the nest."

"Perhaps you are right A failure then would have stood in the way of
your coming fame."

"Oh, for that, ma'am, believe me, I do not care a short straw."

"What do you not care for?"

"For fame."

"That is wrong, Andrew. We ought to care what our neighbors think of

"My neighbors did not set me to do the work, and I did not seek their
praise in doing it. Their friendship I prize dearly--more than tongue
can tell."

"You can not surely be so conceited, Andrew, as to think nobody capable
of judging your work."

"Far from it, ma'am. But you were speaking of fame, and that does not
come from any wise judgment."

"Then what do you write for, if you care nothing for fame? I thought
that was what all poets wrote for."

"So the world thinks; and those that do sometimes have their reward."

"Tell me then what you write for?"

"I write because I want to tell something that makes me glad and strong.
I want to say it, and so try to say it. Things come to me in gleams and
flashes, sometimes in words themselves, and I want to weave them into a
melodious, harmonious whole. I was once at an oratorio, and that taught
me the shape of a poem. In a pause of the music, I seemed all at once to
see Handel's heavy countenance looking out of his great wig, as he sat
putting together his notes, ordering about in his mind, and fixing in
their places with his pen, his drums, and pipes, and fiddles, and
roaring bass, and flageolets, and hautboys--all to open the door for the
thing that was plaguing him with the confusion of its beauty. For I
suppose even Handel did not hear it all clear and plain at first, but
had to build his orchestra into a mental organ for his mind to let
itself out by, through the many music holes, lest it should burst with
its repressed harmonic delights. He must have felt an agonized need to
set the haunting angels of sound in obedient order and range, responsive
to the soul of the thing, its one ruling idea! I saw him with his white
rapt face, looking like a prophet of the living God sent to speak out of
the heart of the mystery of truth! I saw him as he sat staring at the
paper before him, scratched all over as with the fury of a holy anger at
his own impotence, and his soul communed with heavenliest harmonies!
Ma'am, will any man persuade me that Handel at such a moment was athirst
for fame? or that the desire to please a house full or world full of
such as heard his oratorios, gave him the power to write his music? No,
ma'am! he was filled, not with the longing for sympathy, and not even
with the good desire to give delight, but with the music itself. It was
crying in him to get out, and he heard it crying, and could not rest
till he had let it out; and every note that dropped from his pen was a
chip struck from the granite wall between the song-birds in their
prison-nest, and the air of their liberty. Creation is God's
self-wrought freedom. No, ma'am, I do not despise my fellows, but
neither do I prize the judgment of more than a few of them. I prize and
love themselves, but not their opinion."

Alexa was silent, and Andrew took his leave. She sat still for awhile
thinking. If she did not understand, at least she remembered Andrew's
face as he talked: could presumption make his face shine so? could
presumption make him so forget himself?



Things went swimmingly with George. He had weathered a crisis, and was
now full of confidence, as well as the show of it. That he held himself
a man who could do what he pleased, was plain to every one. His
prosperity leaned upon that of certain princes of the power of money in
America: gleaning after them he found his fortune.

But he did not find much increase of favor with Alexa. Her spiritual
tastes were growing more refined. There was something about the man, and
that not new, which she could no longer contemplate without
dissatisfaction. It cost her tears at night to think that, although her
lover had degenerated, he had remained true to her, for she saw plainly
that it was only lack of encouragement that prevented him from asking
her to be his wife. She must _appear_ changeable, but this was not the
man she had been ready to love! the plant had put forth a flower that
was not in sequence with the leaf. The cause of his appearing different
might lie in herself, but in any case he was not the gentleman she had
thought! Had she loved him, she would have stood by him bravely, but now
she could not help recalling the disgrace of the father, and shrunk from
sharing it with the son. Would it be any wonder if the son himself
proved less than honorable? She would have broken with him quite but for
one thing: he had become intimate with her father, and the laird enjoyed
his company.

George had a large straggling acquaintance with things, and could
readily appear to know more than he did. He was, besides, that most
agreeable person to a man with a hobby, a good listener--when he saw
reason. He made himself so pleasant that the laird was not only always
glad to see him, but would often ask him to stay to supper, when he
would fish up from the wine-cellar he had inherited a bottle with a
history and a character, and the two would pass the evening together,
Alexa trying not to wish him away, for was not her poor old father happy
with him! Though without much pleasure of his own in such things,
George, moved by the reflection of the laird's interest, even began to
_collect_ a little, mainly in the hope of picking up what might gratify
the laird; nor, if he came upon a thing he _must_ covet, would hesitate
to spend on it a good sum. Naturally the old man grew to regard him as a
son of the best sort, one who would do anything to please his father and
indulge his tastes.

It may seem surprising that such a man as George should have remained so
true; but he had a bull-dog tenacity of purpose, as indeed his
money-making indicated. Then there was good in him to the measure of
admiring a woman like Alexa, though not of admiring a far better. He saw
himself in danger of losing her; concluded influences at work to the
frustration of his own; surmised that she doubted the character of his
business; feared the clownish farmer-poet might have dazzled with his
new reputation her womanly judgment; and felt himself called upon to
make good his position against any and every prejudice she might have
conceived against him! He would yield nothing! If he was foiled he was
foiled, but it should not be his fault! His own phrase was, that he
would not throw up the sponge so long as he could come up grinning. He
had occasional twinges of discomfort, for his conscience, although
seared indeed, was not seared as with the hottest iron, seeing he had
never looked straight at any truth: it would ease those twinges, he
vaguely imagined, so to satisfy a good woman like Alexa, that she made
common cause with him, accepting not merely himself, but the money of
which he had at such times a slight loathing. Then Alexa was
handsome--he thought her _very_ handsome, and, true to Mammon, he would
gladly be true also to something better. There _might be_ another camp,
and it would be well to have friends in that too!

So unlike Andrew, how could he but dislike him! and his dislike jealousy
fostered into hatred. Cowed before him, like Macbeth before Banquo,
because he was an honest man, how could he but hate him! He called him,
and thought him a canting, sneaking fellow--which he was, if canting
consist in giving God His own, and sneaking consist in fearing no
man--in fearing nothing, indeed, but doing wrong. How could George
consent even to the far-off existence of such a man!

The laird also had taken a dislike to him.

From the night when Dawtie made her appeal, he had not known an hour's
peace. It was not that it had waked his conscience, though it had made
it sleep a little less soundly; it was only that he feared she might
take further action in regard to the cup. She seemed to him to be taking
part with the owner of the cup against him; he could not see that she
was taking part with himself against the devil; that it was not the cup
she was anxious about, but the life of her master. What if she should
acquaint the earl's lawyer with all she knew! He would be dragged into
public daylight! He could not pretend ignorance concerning the identity
of the chalice! that would be to be no antiquarian, while Dawtie would
bear witness that he had in his possession a book telling all about it!
But the girl would never of herself have turned against him! It was all
that fellow Ingram, with his overstrained and absurd notions as to what
God required of His poor sinful creatures! He did not believe in the
atonement! He did not believe that Christ had given satisfaction to the
Father for our sins! He demanded in the name of religion more than any
properly educated and authorized minister would! and in his
meddlesomeness had worried Dawtie into doing as she did! The girl was a
good and modest girl, and would never of herself have so acted! Andrew
was righteous overmuch, therefore eaten up with self-conceit, and the
notion of pleasing God more than other men! He cherished old grudges
against him, and would be delighted to bring his old school-master to
shame! He was not a bad boy at school; he had always liked him; the
change in him witnessed to the peril of extremes! Here they had led to
spiritual pride, which was the worst of all the sins! The favorite of
heaven could have no respect for the opinion of his betters! The man was
bent on returning evil for all the good he had done the boy! It was a
happy thing young Crawford understood him! He would be his friend, and
defeat the machinations of his enemy! If only the fellow's lease were
out, that he might get rid of him!

Moved by George's sympathy with his tastes, he drew nearer and nearer to
disclosing the possession which was the pride of his life. The
enjoyment, of connoisseur or collector rests much on the glory of
possession--of having what another has not, or, better still, what no
other can possibly have.

From what he had long ago seen on the night of the storm, and now from
the way the old man hinted, and talked, and broke off; also from the
uneasiness he sometimes manifested, George had guessed that there was
something over whose possession he gloated, but for whose presence among
his treasures he could not comfortably account He therefore set himself,
without asking a single question, to make the laird unbosom. A hold on
the father would be a hold on the daughter!

One day, in a pawnbroker's shop, he lighted upon a rarity indeed, which
might or might not have a history attributed to it, but was in itself
more than interesting for the beauty of both material and workmanship.
The sum asked for it was large, but with the chance of pleasing the
laird, it seemed to George but a trifle. It was also, he judged, of
intrinsic value to a great part of the price. Had he been then aware of
the passion of the old man for jewels in especial, he would have been
yet more eager to secure it for him. It was a watch, not very small, and
by no means thin--a repeater, whose bell was dulled by the stones of the
mine in which it lay buried. The case was one mass of gems of
considerable size, and of every color. Ruby, sapphire, and emerald were
judiciously parted by diamonds of utmost purity, while yellow diamonds
took the golden place for which the topaz had not been counted of
sufficient value. They were all crusted together as close as they could
lie, the setting of them hardly showing. The face was of fine opals,
across which moved the two larger hands radiant with rubies, while the
second-hand flitted flashing around, covered with tiny diamonds. The
numerals were in sapphires, within a bordering ring of emeralds and
black pearls. The jewel was a splendor of color and light.

George, without preface, took it from his pocket, held it a moment in
the sunlight, and handed it to the laird. He glowered at it. He saw an
angel from heaven in a thing compact of earth-chips! As near as any
_thing_ can be loved of a live soul, the laird loved a fine stone; what
in it he loved most, the color, the light, the shape, the value, the
mystery, he could not have told!--and here was a jewel of many fine
stones! With both hands he pressed it to his bosom. Then he looked at it
in the sun, then went into the shadow of the house, for they were in the
open air, and looked at it again. Suddenly he thrust it into his pocket,
and hurried, followed by George, to his study. There he closed the
shutters, lighted a lamp, and gazed at the marvel, turning it in all
directions. At length he laid it on the table, and sunk with a sigh into
a chair. George understood the sigh, and dug its source deeper by
telling him, as he had heard it, the story of the jewel.

"It may be true," he said as he ended. "I remember seeing some time ago
a description of the toy. I think I could lay my hand on it!"

"Would you mind leaving it with me till you come again?" faltered the

He knew he could not buy it: he had not the money; but he would gladly
dally with the notion of being its possessor. To part with it, the
moment after having held it in his hand and gloated over it for the
first time, would be too keen a pain! It was unreasonable to have to
part with it at all! He _ought_ to be its owner! Who could be such an
owner to a thing like that as he! It was a wrong to him that it was not
his! Next to his cup, it was the most precious thing he had ever wished
to possess!--a thing for a man to take to the grave with him! Was there
no way of carrying _any_ treasure to the other world? He would have sold
of his land to secure the miracle, but, alas, it was all entailed! For a
moment the Cellini chalice seemed of less account, and he felt ready to
throw open the window of his treasure-room and pitch everything out. The
demon of _having_ is as imperious and as capricious as that of drink,
and there is no refuge from it but with the Father. "This kind goeth not
out by prayer."

The poor slave uttered, not a sigh now, but a groan. "You'll tell the
man," he said, thinking George had borrowed the thing to show him, "that
I did not even ask the price: I know I can not buy it!"

"Perhaps he would give you credit!" suggested George, with a smile.

"No! I will have nothing to do with credit! I should not be able to call
it my own!"--Money-honesty was strong in the laird. "But," he continued,
"do try and persuade him to let me have it for a day or two--that I may
get its beauty by heart, and think of it all the days, and dream of it
all the nights of my life after!"

"There will be no difficulty about that," answered George. "The owner
will be delighted to let you keep it as long as you wish!"

"I would it were so!"

"It is so!"

"You don't mean to say, George, that that queen of jewels is yours, and
you will lend it me?"

"The thing is mine, but I will not lend it--not even to you, sir!"

"I don't wonder!--I don't wonder! But it is a great disappointment! I
was beginning to hope I--I--might have the loan of it for a week or two

"You should indeed if the thing were mine!" said George, playing him;

"Oh, I beg your pardon! I thought you said it was yours!"

"So it was when I brought it, but it is mine no longer. It is yours. I
purchased it for you this morning."

The old man was speechless. He rose, and seizing George by both hands,
stood staring at him. Something very like tears gathered within the
reddened rims of his eyes. He had grown paler and feebler of late, ever
in vain devising to secure possession of the cup--possession moral as
well as legal. But this entrancing gift brought with it strength and
hope in regard to the chalice! "To him that hath shall be given!" quoted
the Mammon within him.

"George!" he said, with a moan of ecstasy, "you are my good angel!" and
sat down exhausted. The watch was the key to his "closet," as he
persisted in calling his treasury.

In old times not a few houses in Scotland held a certain tiny room,
built for the head of the family, to be his closet for prayer: it was, I
believe, with the notion of such a room in his head, that the laird had
called his museum his closet; and he was more right than he meant to be;
for in that chamber he did his truest worship--truest as to the love in
it, falsest as to its object; for there he worshiped the god vilest bred
of all the gods, bred namely of man's distrust in the Life of the

And now here also were two met together to worship; for from this time
the laird, disclosing his secret, made George free of his sanctuary.

George was by this time able to take a genuine interest in the
collection. But he was much amused, sometimes annoyed, with the behavior
of the laird in his closet: he was more nervous and touchy over his
things than a she-bear over her cubs.

Of all dangers to his darlings he thought a woman the worst, and had
therefore seized with avidity the chance of making that room a hidden
one, the possibility of which he had spied almost the moment he first
entered it.

He became, if possible, fonder of his things than ever, and flattered
himself he had found in George a fellow-worshiper: George's exaggerated
or pretended appreciation enhanced his sense of their value.



Alexa had a strong shaggy pony, which she rode the oftener that George
came so often; taking care to be well gone before he arrived on his
beautiful horse.

One lovely summer evening she had been across the moor a long way, and
was returning as the sun went down. A glory of red molten gold was
shining in her face, so that she could see nothing in front of her, and
was a little startled by a voice greeting her with a respectful
good-evening. The same moment she was alongside of the speaker in the
blinding veil of the sun. It was Andrew walking home from a village on
the other side of the moor. She drew rein, and they went together.

"What has come to you, Mr. Ingram?" she said; "I hear you were at church
last Sunday evening!"

"Why should I not be, ma'am?" asked Andrew.

"For the reason that you are not in the way of going."

"There might be good reason for going once, or for going many times, and
yet not for going always!"

"We won't begin with quarreling! There are things we shall not agree

"Yes; one or two--for a time, I believe!" returned Andrew.

"What did you think of Mr. Rackstraw's sermon? I suppose you went to
hear _him_.'"

"Yes, ma'am--at least partly."


"Will you tell me first whether you were satisfied with Mr. Rackstraw's
teaching? I know you were there."

"I was quite satisfied."

"Then I don't see reason for saying anything about it."

"If I am wrong, you ought to try to set me right!"

"The prophet Elisha would have done no good by throwing his salt into
the running stream. He cast it, you will remember, into the spring!"

"I do not understand you."

"There is no use in persuading a person to change an opinion."

"Why not?"

"Because the man is neither the better nor the worse for it. If you had
told me you were distressed to hear a man in authority speak as Mr.
Rackstraw spoke concerning a being you loved, I would have tried to
comfort you by pointing out how false it was. But if you are content to
hear God so represented, why should I seek to convince you of what is
valueless to you? Why offer you to drink what your heart is not
thirsting after? Would you love God more because you found He was not
what you were quite satisfied He should be?"

"Do tell me more plainly what you mean?"

"You must excuse me. I have said all I will. I can not reason in defense
of God. It seems blasphemy to argue that His nature is not such as no
honorable man could love in another man."

"But if the Bible says so?"

"If the Bible said so, the Bible would be false. But the Bible does not
say so."

"How is it then that it seems to say so?"

"Because you were taught falsely about Him before you desired to know

"But I am capable of judging now!"

Andrew was silent.

"Am I not?" insisted Alexa.

"Do you desire to know God?" said Andrew.

"I think I do know Him."

"And you think those things true?"


"Then we are where we were, and I say no more."

"You are not polite."

"I can not help it. I must let you alone to believe about God what you
can. You will not be blamed for not believing what you can not."

"Do you mean that God never punishes any one for what He can not help?"


"How do you prove that?"

"I will not attempt to prove it. If you are content to think He does, if
it do not trouble you that your God should be unjust, go on thinking so
until you are made miserable by it, then I will pour out my heart to
deliver you."

She was struck, not with any truth in what he said, but with the evident
truthfulness of the man himself. Right or wrong, there was that about
him--a certain radiance of conviction--which certainly was not about Mr.

"The things that can be shaken," said Andrew, as if thinking with
himself, "may last for a time, but they will at length be shaken to
pieces, that the things which can not be shaken may show what they are.
Whatever we call religion will vanish when we see God face to face."

For awhile they went brushing through the heather in silence.

"May I ask you one question, Mr. Ingram?" said Alexa.

"Surely, ma'am! Ask me anything you like."

"And you will answer me?"

"If I am at liberty to answer you I will."

"What do you mean by being at liberty? Are you under any vow?"

"I am under the law of love. I am bound to do nothing to hurt. An answer
that would do you no good I will not give."

"How do you know what will or will not do me good?"

"I must use what judgment I have."

"Is it true, then, that you believe God gives you whatever you ask?"

"I have never asked anything of Him that He did not give me."

"Would you mind telling me anything you have asked of Him?"

"I have never yet required to ask anything not included in the prayer,
'Thy will be done.'"

"That will be done without your praying for it."

"Pardon me; I do not believe it will be done, to all eternity, without
my praying for it. Where first am I accountable that His will should be
done? Is it not in myself? How is His will to be done in me without my
willing it? Does He not want me to love what He loves?--to be like
Himself?--to do His will with the glad effort of my will?--in a word, to
will what He wills? And when I find I can not, what am I to do but pray
for help? I pray, and He helps me."

"There is nothing strange in that!"

"Surely not It seems to me the simplest common sense. It is my business,
the business of every man, that God's will be done by his obedience to
that will, the moment he knows it."

"I fancy you are not so different from other people as you think
yourself. But they say you want to die."

"I want nothing but what God wants. I desire righteousness."

"Then you accept the righteousness of Christ?"

"Accept it! I long for it."

"You know that it is not what I mean!"

"I seek first the kingdom of God and God's righteousness."

"You avoid my question. Do you accept the righteousness of Christ
instead of your own?"

"I have no righteousness of my own to put it instead of. The only
righteousness there is is God's, and He will make me righteous like
Himself. He is not content that His one Son only should be righteous; He
wants all His children to be righteous as He is righteous. The thing is
plain; I will not argue about it."

"You do not believe in the atonement."

"I believe in Jesus Christ. He is the atonement. What strength God has
given me I will spend in knowing Him and doing what He tells me. To
interpret His plans before we know Himself is to mistake both Him and
His plans. I know this, that he has given His life for what multitudes
who call themselves by His name would not rise from their seats to share

"You think me incapable of understanding the gospel?"

"I think if you did understand the gospel of Christ you would be
incapable of believing the things about His Father that you say you do
believe. But I will not say a word more. When you are able to see the
truth, you will see it; and when you desire the truth you will be able."

Alexa touched her pony with her whip. But by and by she pulled him up,
and made him walk till Andrew overtook her.

The sun was by this time far out of sight, the glow of the west was
over, and twilight lay upon the world. Its ethereal dimness had sunk
into her soul.

"Does the gloaming make you sad, Mr. Ingram?" she asked.

"It makes me very quiet," he answered--"as if all my people were asleep,
and waiting for me."

"Do you mean as if they were all dead? How can you talk of it so

"Because I do not believe in death."

"What _do_ you mean?"

"I am a Christian!"

"I hope you are, Mr. Ingram, though, to be honest with you, some things
make me doubt it Perhaps you would say I am not a Christian."

"It is enough that God knows whether you are a Christian or not. Why
should I say you are or you are not?"

"But I want to know what you meant when you said you were a Christian.
How should that make you indifferent to the death of your friends? Death
is a dreadful thing, look at it how you like."

"The Lord says, 'He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.' If
my friends are not dead, but living and waiting for me, why should I
wait for them in a fierce, stormy night, or a black frost, instead of
the calm of such a sleeping day as this--a day with the son hid,
Shakespeare calls it"

"How you do mix up things! Shakespeare and Jesus Christ!"

"God mixed them first, and will mix them a good deal more yet," said

But for the smile which would hover like a heavenly Psyche about his
mouth, his way of answering would sometimes have seemed curt to those
who did not understand him. Instead of holding aloof in his superiority,
however, as some thought he did when he would not answer, or answered
abruptly, Andrew's soul would be hovering, watching and hoping for a
chance of lighting, and giving of the best he had. He was like a great
bird changing parts with a child--the child afraid of the bird, and the
bird enticing the child to be friends. He had learned that if he poured
out his treasure recklessly it might be received with dishonor, and but
choke the way of the chariot of approaching truth.

"Perhaps you will say next there is no such thing as suffering," resumed

"No; the Lord said that in the world His friends should have

"What tribulation have you, who are so specially His friend?"

"Not much yet It is a little, however, sometimes, to know such strong,
and beautiful, and happy-making things, and all the time my people, my
beloved humans, born of my Father in heaven, with the same heart for joy
and sorrow, will not listen and be comforted, I think that was what made
our Lord sorriest of all"

"Mr. Ingram, I have no patience with you. How dare you liken your
trouble to that of our Lord--making yourself equal with Him!"

"Is it making myself equal with Him to say that I understand a little
how He felt toward His fellow-men? I am always trying to understand Him;
would it be a wonder if I did sometimes a little? How is a man to do as
He did, without understanding Him?"

"Are you going to work miracles next?"

"Jesus was always doing what God wanted Him to do. That was what He came
for, not to work miracles. He could have worked a great many more if He
had pleased, but He did no more than God wanted of Him. Am I not to try
to do the will of God, because He who died that I might, always
succeeded however hard it was, and I am always failing and having to try

"And you think you will come to it in this life?"

"I never think about that; I only think about doing His will now--not
about doing it then--that is, to-morrow or next day or next world. I
know only one life--the life that is hid with Christ in God; and that is
the life by which I live here and now. I do not make schemes of life; I
live. Life will teach me God's plans; I will take no trouble about them;
I will only obey, and receive the bliss He sends me. And of all things I
will not make theories of God's plans for other people to accept. I will
only do my best to destroy such theories as I find coming between some
poor glooming heart, and the sun shining in his strength. Those who love
the shade of lies, let them walk in it until the shiver of the eternal
cold drive them to seek the face of Jesus Christ. To appeal to their
intellect would be but to drive them the deeper into the shade to
justify their being in it. And if by argument you did persuade them out
of it, they would but run into a deeper and worse darkness."

"How could that be?"

"They would at once think that, by an intellectual stride they had
advanced in the spiritual life, whereas they would be neither the better
nor the worse. I know a man, once among the foremost in denouncing the
old theology, who is now no better than a swindler."

"You mean--"

"No one you know, ma'am. His intellectual freedom seems only to have
served his spiritual subjugation. Right opinion, except it spring from
obedience to the truth, is but so much rubbish on the golden floor of
the temple."

The peace of the night and its luminous earnestness were gleaming on
Andrew's face, and Alexa, glancing up as he ceased, felt again the
inroad of a sense of something in the man that was not in the other men
she knew--the spiritual shadow of a dweller in regions beyond her ken.
The man was before her, yet out of her sight!

The whole thing was too simple for her, only a child could understand it
Instead of listening to the elders and priests to learn how to save his
soul, he cast away all care of himself, left that to God, and gave
himself to do the will of Him from whose heart he came, even as the
eternal Life, the Son of God, required of him; in the mighty hope of
becoming one mind, heart, soul, one eternal being, with Him, with the
Father, with every good man, with the universe which was his
inheritance--walking in the world as Enoch walked with God, held by his
hand. This is what man was and is meant to be, what man must become;
thither the wheels of time are roaring; thither work all the silent
potencies of the eternal world; and they that will not awake and arise
from the dead must be flung from their graves by the throes of a
shivering world.

When he had done speaking Andrew stood and looked up. A few stars were
looking down through the limpid air. Alexa rode on. Andrew let her go,
and walked after her alone, sure that her mind must one day open to the
eternal fact that God is all in all, the perfect friend of His children;
yea, that He would cease to be God sooner than fail His child in his
battle with death.



Alexa kept hoping that George would be satisfied she was not inclined
toward him as she had been; and that, instead of bringing the matter to
open issue, he would continue to come and go as the friend of her
father. But George came to the conclusion that he ought to remain in
doubt no longer, and one afternoon followed her into the garden. She had
gone there with a certain half-scientific, half-religious book in her
hand, from which she was storing her mind with arguments against what
she supposed the opinions of Andrew. She had, however, little hope of
his condescending to front them with counter-argument. His voice
returned ever to the ear of her mind in words like these: "If you are
content to think so, you are in no condition to receive what I have to
communicate. Why should I press water on a soul that is not thirsty? Let
us wait for the drought of the desert, when life is a low fever, and the
heart is dry; when the earth is like iron, and the heavens above it are
as brass."

She started at the sound of George's voice.

"What lovely weather!" he said.

Even lovers betake themselves to the weather as a medium--the side of
nature which all understand. It was a good, old-fashioned, hot, heavy
summer afternoon, one ill-chosen for love-making.

"Yes?" answered Alexa, with a point of interrogation subaudible, and
held her book so that be might feel it on the point of being lifted
again to eager eyes. But he was not more sensitive than sentimental.

"Please put your book down for a moment. I have not of late asked too
much of your attention, Alexa!"

"You have been very kind, George!" she answered.

"Kind is not asking much of your attention?"

"Yea--that, and giving my father so much of yours,"

"I certainly have seen more of him than of you!" returned George, hoping
her words meant reproach. "But he has always been kind to me, and
pleased to see me! You have not given me much encouragement!"

To begin love-making with complaint is not wise, and George felt that he
had got into the wrong track; but Alexa took care that he should not get
out of it easily. Not being simple, he always settled the best course to
pursue, and often went wrong. The man who cares only for what is true
and right is saved much thinking and planning. He generally sees but one
way of doing a thing!

"I am glad to hear you say so, George! You have not mistaken me!"

"You were not so sharp with me when I went away, Alexa!"

"No; then you were going away!"

"Should you not show a fellow some kindness when he is come back?"

"Not when he does not seem content with having come back!"

"I do not understand!"

But Alexa gave no explanation.

"You would be kind to me again if I were going away again?"


"That is, if you were sure I was not coming back."

"I did not _say_ so."

"I can't make it out, Alexa! I used to think there could never be any
misunderstanding between you and me! But something has crept in between
us, and for the life of me I do not know what it is!"

"There is one thing for which I am more obliged to you than I can tell,
George--that you did not say anything before you went."

"I am awfully sorry for it now; but I thought you understood!"

"I did; and I am very glad, for I should have repented it long ago!"

This was hardly logical, but George seemed to understand.

"You are cruel!" he said. "I should have made it the business of my life
that you never did!"

Yet George knew of things he dared not tell that had taken place almost
as soon as he was relieved from the sustaining and restraining human
pressure in which he had grown up!

"I am certain I should," persisted Alexa.

"Why are you so certain?"

"Because I am so glad now to think I am free."

"Some one has been maligning me, Alexa! It is very hard not to know
where the stab comes from!"

"The testimony against you is from your own lips, George. I heard you
talking to my father, and was aware of a tone I did not like. I listened
more attentively, and became convinced that your ways of thinking had
deteriorated. There seemed not a remnant left of the honor I then
thought characterized you!"

"Why, certainly, as an honest man, I can not talk religion like your
friend the farmer!"

"Do you mean that Andrew Ingram is not an honest man?" rejoined Alexa,
with some heat.

"I mean that I am an honest man."

"I am doubtful of you."

"I can tell the quarter whence that doubt was blown!"

"It would be of greater consequence to blow it away! George Crawford, do
you believe yourself an honest man?"

"As men go, yes."

"But not as men go, George? As you would like to appear to the world
when hearts are as open as faces?"

He was silent.

"Would the way you have made your money stand the scrutiny of--"

She had Andrew in her mind, and was on the point of saying "_Jesus
Christ_," but felt she had no right, and hesitated.

"--Of our friend Andrew?" supplemented George, with a spiteful laugh.
"The only honest mode of making money he knows is the strain of his
muscles--the farmer-way! He wouldn't keep up his corn for a better
market--not he!"

"It so happens that I know he would not; for he and my father had a
dispute on that very point, and I heard them. He said poor people were
not to go hungry that he might get rich. He was not sent into the world
to make money, he said, but to grow corn. The corn was grown, and he
could get enough for it now to live by, and had no right, and no desire
to get more--and would not keep it up! The land was God's, not his, and
the poor were God's children, and had their rights from him! He was sent
to grow corn for them!"

"And what did your father say to that wisdom?"

"That is no matter. Nor do I profess to understand Mr. Ingram. I only
know," added Alexa, with a little laugh, "that he is consistent, for he
has puzzled me all my life. I can, however, see a certain nobility in
him that sets him apart from other men!"

"And I can see that when I left I was needlessly modest! I thought _my_
position too humble!"

"What am I to understand by that?"

"What you think I mean."

"I wish you a good-afternoon, Mr. Crawford!"

Alexa rose and left him.

George had indeed grown coarser! He turned where he stood with his hands
in his pockets, and looked after her; then smiled to himself a nasty
smile, and said: "At least I have made her angry, and that's something!
What has a fellow like that to give her? Poet, indeed! What's that! He's
not even the rustic gentleman! He's downright vulgar!--a clod-hopper
born and bred! But the lease, I understand, will soon be out, and
Potlurg will never let _him_ have it! _I_ will see to that! The laird
hates the canting scoundrel! I would rather pay him double the rent

His behavior now did not put Andrew's manners in the shade! Though he
never said a word to flatter Alexa, spoke often in a way she did not at
all like, persistently refused to enter into argument with her when most
she desired it, yet his every tone, every movement toward her was full
of respect And however she strove against the idea, she felt him her
superior, and had indeed begun to wish that she had never shown herself
at a disadvantage by the assumption of superiority. It would be pleasant
to know that it pained him to disapprove of her! For she began to feel
that, as she disapproved of George, and could not like him, so the young
farmer disapproved of her, and could not like her. It was a new and by
no means agreeable thought. Andrew delighted in beautiful things: he did
not see anything beautiful in her! Alexa was not conceited, but she knew
she was handsome, and knew also that Andrew would never feel one
heart-throb more because of any such beauty as hers. Had he not as good
as told her she was one of the dead who would not come alive! It would
be something to be loved by a man like that! But Alexa was too maidenly
to think of making any man love her--and even if he loved her she could
not marry a man in Andrew's position! She might stretch a point or two
were the lack but a point or two, but there was no stretching points to
the marrying of a peasant, without education, who worked on his father's
farm! The thing was ridiculous!--of course she knew that!--the very idea
too absurd to pass through her idlest thoughts! But she was not going to
marry George! That was well settled! In a year or two he would be quite
fat! And he always had his hands in his pockets! There was something
about him _not_ like a gentleman! He suggested an auctioneer or a

She took her pony and went for a ride. When she came back, the pony
looked elf-ridden.

But George had no intention of forsaking the house--yet, at least. He
was bent on humbling his cousin, therefore continued his relations with
her father, while he hurried on, as fast as consisted with good masonry,
the building of a house on a small estate he had bought in the
neighborhood, intending it to be such as must be an enticement to any
lady. So long had he regarded everything through the veil of money, that
he could not think of Alexa even without thinking of Mammon as well. By
this time also he was so much infected with the old man's passion for
things curious and valuable, that the idea of one day calling the
laird's wonderful collection his own, had a real part in his desire to
become his daughter's husband. He _would not_ accept her dismissal as



The laird had been poorly for some weeks, and Alexa began to fear that
he was failing. Nothing more had passed between him and Dawtie, but he
knew that anxious eyes were often watching him, and the thought worried
him not a little. If he would but take a start, thought Dawtie, and not
lose all the good of this life! It was too late for him to rise very
high; he could not now be a saint, but he might at least set a foot on
the eternal stair that leads to the fullness of bliss! He would have a
sore fight with all those imps of things, before he ceased to love that
which was not lovely, and to covet that which was not good! But the man
gained a precious benefit from this world, who but began to repent
before he left it! If only the laird would start up the hill before his
body got quite to the bottom! Was there any way to approach him again
with her petition that he would be good to himself, good to God, good to
the universe, that he would love what was worth loving, and cast away
what was not? She had no light, and could do nothing!

Suddenly the old man failed quite--apparently from no cause but
weakness. The unease of his mind, the haunting of the dread thought of
having to part with the chalice, had induced it. He was in his closet
one night late into the morning, and the next day did not get up to
breakfast He wanted a little rest, he said. In a day he would be well!
But the hour to rise again, much anticipated, never came. He seemed very
troubled at times, and very desirous of getting up, but never was able.
It became necessary to sit with him at night. In fits of delirium he
would make fierce endeavor to rise, insisting that he must go to his
study. His closet he never mentioned: even in dreams was his secrecy
dominant. Dawtie, who had her share in nursing him, kept hoping her
opportunity would come. He did not seem to cherish any resentment
against her. His illness would protect him, he thought, from further
intrusion of her conscience upon his! She must know better than irritate
a sick man with overofficiousness! Everybody could not be a saint! It
was enough to be a Christian like other good and salvable Christians! It
was enough for him if through the merits of his Saviour he gained
admission to the heavenly kingdom at last! He never thought now, once
in, he could bear to stay in; never thought how heaven could be to him
other than the dullest place in the universe of God, more wearisome than
the kingdom of darkness itself! And all the time the young woman with
the savior-heart was watching by his bedside, ready to speak; but the
Spirit gave her no utterance, and her silence soothed his fear of her.

One night he was more restless than usual. Waking from his troubled
slumber, he called her--in the tone of one who had something important
to communicate.

"Dawtie," he said, with feeble voice but glittering eye, "there is no
one I can trust like you. I have been thinking of what you said that
night ever since. Go to my closet and bring me the cup."

Dawtie held a moment's debate whether it would be right; but she
reflected that it made little difference whether the object of his
passion was in his hand or in his chest, while it was all the same deep
in his heart. Then his words seemed to imply that he wanted to take his
farewell of it; and to refuse his request might only fan the evil love,
and turn him from the good motion in his mind. She said: "Yes, sir," and
stood waiting. He did not speak.

"I do not know where to find it," she said.

"I am going to tell you," he replied, but seemed to hesitate.

"I will not touch a single thing beside," said Dawtie.

He believed her, and at once proceeded:

"Take my bunch of keys from the hook behind me. There is the key of the
closet door!--and there, the key of all the bunch that looks the
commonest, but is in reality the most cunningly devised, is the key of
the cabinet in which I keep it!"

Then he told her where, behind a little book-case, which moved from the
wall on hinges, she would find the cabinet, and in what part of it the
cup, wrapped in a piece of silk that had once been a sleeve, worn by
_Mme. de Genlis_--which did not make Dawtie much wiser.

She went, found the chalice, and brought it where the laird lay
straining his ears, and waiting for it as a man at the point of death
might await the sacramental cup from absolving priest.

His hands trembled as he took it; for they were the hands of a
lover--strange as that love was, which not merely looked for no return,
but desired to give neither pleasure nor good to the thing loved! It was
no love of the merely dead, but a love of the unliving! He pressed the
thing to his bosom; then, as if rebuked by the presence of Dawtie, put
it a little from him, and began to pore over every stone, every
_repousse_ figure between, and every engraved ornament around the gems,
each of which he knew, by shape, order, quality of color, better than
ever face of wife or child. But soon his hands sunk on the counterpane
of silk patchwork, and he lay still, grasping tight the precious thing.

He woke with a start and a cry, to find it safe in both his hands.

"Ugh!" he said; "I thought some one had me by the throat! You didn't try
to take the cup from me--did you, Dawtie?"

"No, sir," answered Dawtie; "I would not care to take it out of your
hand, but I _should_ be glad to take it out of your heart!"

"If they would only bury it with me!" he murmured, heedless of her

"Oh, sir! Would you have it burning your heart to all eternity? Give it
up, sir, and take the treasure thief never stole."

"Yes, Dawtie, yes! That is the true treasure!"

"And to get it we must sell all that we have!"

"He gives and withholds as He sees fit."

"Then, when you go down into the blackness, longing for the cup you will
never see more, you will complain of God that he would not give you
strength to fling it from you?"

He hugged the chalice.

"Fling it from me!" he cried, fiercely. "Girl, who are you to torment me
before my time!"

"Tell me, sir," persisted Dawtie, "why does the apostle cry, 'Awake thou
that sleepest!' if they couldn't move?"

"No one _can_ move without God."

"Therefore, seeing every one can move, it must be God giving him the
power to do what he requires of him; and we are fearfully to blame not
using the strength God gives us!"

"I can not bear the strain of thinking!" gasped the laird.

"Then give up thinking, and do the thing! Shall I take it for you?"

She put out her hand as she spoke.

"No! no!" he cried, grasping the cup tighter. "You shall not touch it!
You would give it to the earl! I know you! Saints hate what is

"I like better to look at things in my Father's hand than in my own!"

"You want to see my cup--it _is_ my cup!--in the hands of that
spendthrift fool, Lord Borland!"

"It is in the Father's hand, whoever has it!"

"Hold your tongue, Dawtie, or I will cry out and wake the house!"

"They will think you out of your mind, and come and take the cup from
you! Do let me put it away; then you will go to sleep."

"I will not; I can not trust you with it! You have destroyed my
confidence in you! I _may_ fall asleep, but if your hand come within a
foot of the cup, it will wake me! I know it will! I shall sleep with my
heart in the cup, and the least touch will wake me!"

"I wish you would let Andrew Ingram come and see you, sir!"

"What's the matter with _him?_"

"Nothing's the matter with him, sir; but he helps everybody to do what
is right."

"Conceited rascal! Do you take me for a maniac that you talk such

His look was so wild, his old blue faded eyes gleamed with such a light
of mingled fear and determination, that Dawtie was almost sorry she had
spoken. With trembling hands he drew the cup within the bed-clothes, and
lay still. If the morning would but come, and bring George Crawford!
_He_ would restore the cup to its place, or hide it where he should know
it safe and not far from him!

Dawtie sat motionless, and the old man fell into another feverish doze.
She dared not stir lest he should start away to defend his idol. She sat
like an image, moving only her eyes.

"What are you about, Dawtie?" he said at length. "You are after some
mischief, you are so quiet!"

"I was telling God how good you would be if he could get you to give up
your odds and ends, and take Him instead."

"How dared you say such a thing, sitting there by my side! Are _you_ to
say to _Him_ that any sinner would be good, if He would only do so and
so with him! Tremble, girl, at the vengeance of the Almighty!"

"We are told to make prayers and intercessions for all men, and I was
saying what I could for you." The laird was silent, and the rest of the
night passed quietly.

His first words in the morning were:

"Go and tell your mistress I want her."

When his daughter came, he told her to send for George Crawford. He was
worse, he said, and wanted to see him.

Alexa thought it best to send Dawtie with the message by the next train.
Dawtie did not relish the mission, for she had no faith in Crawford, and
did not like his influence on her master. Not the less when she reached
his hotel, she insisted on seeing him and giving her message in person;
which done, she made haste for the first train back: they could not do
well without her! When she arrived, there was Mr. Crawford already on
the platform! She set out as fast as she could, but she had not got
further than half-way when he overtook her in a fly, and insisted she
should get in.



"What is the matter with your master?" he asked.

"God knows, sir."

"What is the use of telling me that? I want you to tell me what _you_

"I don't know anything, sir."

"What do you think then?"

"I should think old age had something to do with it, sir."

"Likely enough, but you know more than that!"

"I shouldn't wonder, sir, if he were troubled in his mind."

"What makes you think so?"

"It is reasonable to think so, sir. He knows he must die before long,
and it is dreadful to leave everything you care for, and go where there
is nothing you care for!"

"How do you know there is nothing he would care for?"

"What is there, sir, he would be likely to care for?"

"There is his wife. He was fond of her, I suppose, and you pious people
fancy you will see each other again."

"The thought of seeing her would give him little comfort, I am afraid,
in parting with the things he has here. He believes a little somehow--I
can't understand how."

"What does he believe?"

"He believes a little--he is not sure--that what a man soweth he shall
also reap."

"How do you know what he is or is not sure off? It can't be a matter of
interest to you?"

"Those that come of one Father must have interest in one another."

"How am I to tell we come of one Father--as you call Him? I like to have
a thing proved before I believe it. I know neither where I came from,
nor where I am going; how then can I know that we come from the same

"I don't know how you're to know it, sir. I take it for granted, and
find it good. But there is one thing I am sure of."

"What is that?"

"That if you were my master's friend you would not rest till you got him
to do what was right before he died."

"I will not be father-confessor to any man. I have enough to do with
myself. A good worthy old man like the laird must know better than any
other what he ought to do."

"There is no doubt of that, sir."

"What do you want then?"

"To get him to do it. That he knows, is what makes it so miserable. If
he did not know he would not be to blame. He knows what it is and won't
do it, and that makes him wretched--as it ought, thank God!"

"You're a nice Christian. Thanking God for making a man miserable.

"Yes," answered Dawtie.

George thought a little.

"What would you have me persuade him to?" he asked, for he might hear
something it would be useful to know. But Dawtie had no right and no
inclination to tell him what she knew.

"I only wish you would persuade him to do what he knows he ought to do,"
she replied.



George stayed with the laird a good while, and held a long, broken talk
with him. When he went Alexa came. She thought her father seemed
happier. George had put the cup away for him. Alexa sat with him that
night. She knew nothing of such a precious thing being in the house--in
the room with them.

In the middle of the night, as she was arranging his pillows, the laird
drew from under the bed-clothes, and held up to her, flashing in the
light of the one candle, the jeweled watch. She stared. The old man was
pleased at her surprise and evident admiration. She held out her hand
for it. He gave it her.

"That watch," he said, "is believed to have belonged to Ninon de
l'Enclos. It _may_, but I doubt it myself. It is well known she never
took presents from her admirers, and she was too poor to have bought
such a thing. Mme. de Maintenon, however, or some one of her
lady-friends, might have given it her. It will be yours one day--that
is, if you marry the man I should like you to marry."

"Dear father, do not talk of marrying. I have enough with you," cried
Alexa, and felt as if she hated George.

"Unfortunately, you can not have me always," returned her father. "I
will say nothing more now, but I desire you to consider what I have

Alexa put the watch in his hand.

"I trust you do not suppose," she said, "that a house full of things
like that would make any difference."

He looked up at her sharply. A house full--what did she know? It
silenced him, and he lay thinking. Surely the delight of lovely things
must be in every woman's heart. Was not the passion, developed or
undeveloped, universal? Could a child of his _not_ care for such things?

"Ah," he said to himself, "she takes after her mother."

A wall seemed to rise between him and his daughter. Alas! alas! the
things he loved and must one day yield would not be cherished by her. No
tender regard would hover around them when he was gone. She would be no
protecting divinity to them. God in heaven! she might--she would--he was
sure she would sell them.

It seems the sole possible comfort of avarice, as it passes empty and
hungry into the empty regions--that the things it can no more see with
eyes or handle with hands will yet be together somewhere. Hence the rich
leave to the rich, avoiding the man who most needs, or would best use
their money. Is there a lurking notion in the man of much goods, I
wonder, that, in the still watches of the night, when men sleep, he will
return to look on what he leaves behind him? Does he forget the torture
of seeing it at the command, in the enjoyment of another--his will
concerning this thing or that but a mockery? Does he know that he who
then holds them will not be able to conceive of their having been or
ever being another's as now they are his?

As Alexa sat in the dim light by her brooding father she loathed the
shining thing he had again drawn under the bed-clothes--shrunk from it
as from a manacle the devil had tried to slip on her wrist. The judicial
assumption of society suddenly appeared in the emptiness of its
arrogance. Marriage for the sake of _things_. Was she not a live soul,
made for better than that She was ashamed of the innocent pleasure the
glittering toy had given her.

The laird cast now and then a glance at her face, and sighed. He
gathered from it the conviction that she would be a cruel step-mother to
his children, her mercy that of a loveless non-collector. It should not
be. He would do better for them than that. He loved his daughter, but
needed not therefore sacrifice his last hopes where the sacrifice would
meet with no acceptance. House and land should be hers, but not his
jewels; not the contents of his closet.



George came again to see him the next day, and had again a long
conference with him. The laird told him that he had fully resolved to
leave everything to his daughter, personal as well as real, on the one
condition that she should marry her cousin; if she would not, then the
contents of his closet, with his library, and certain articles
specified, should pass to Crawford.

"And you must take care," he said, "if my death should come suddenly,
that anything valuable in this room be carried into the closet before it
is sealed up."

Shrinking as he did from the idea of death, the old man was yet able, in
the interest of his possessions, to talk of it! It was as if he thought
the sole consolation that, in the loss of their owner, his things could
have, was the continuance of their intercourse with each other in the
heaven of his Mammon-besotted imagination.

George responded heartily, showing a gratitude more genuine than fine:
every virtue partakes of the ground in which it is grown. He assured the
laird that, valuable as was in itself his contingent gift, which no man
could appreciate more than he, it would be far more valuable to him if
it sealed his adoption as his son-in-law. He would rather owe the
possession of the wonderful collection to the daughter than to the
father! In either case the precious property would be held as for him,
each thing as carefully tended as by the laird's own eye and hand!

Whether it would at the moment have comforted the dying man to be
assured, as George might have him, that there would be nothing left of
him to grieve at the loss of his idols--nothing left of him but a
memory, to last so long as George and Alexa and one or two more should
remain unburied, I can not tell. It was in any case a dreary outlook for
him. Hope and faith and almost love had been sucked from his life by
"the hindering knot-grass" which had spread its white bloodless roots in
all directions through soul and heart and mind, exhausting and choking
in them everything of divinest origin. The weeds in George's heart were
of another kind, and better nor worse in themselves; the misery was that
neither of them was endeavoring to root them out. The thief who is
trying to be better is ages ahead of the most honorable man who is
making no such effort. The one is alive; the other is dead and on the
way to corruption.

They treated themselves to a gaze together on the cup and the watch;
then George went to give directions to the laird's lawyer for the
drawing up of his new will.

The next day it was brought, read, signed by the laird, and his
signature duly witnessed.

Dawtie being on the spot was made one of the witnesses. The laird
trembled lest her fanaticism should break out in appeal to the lawyer
concerning the cup; he could not understand that the cup was nothing to
her; that she did not imagine herself a setter right of wrongs, but knew
herself her neighbor's keeper, one that had to deliver his soul from
death! Had the cup come into her possession, she would have sent it back
to the owner, but it was not worth her care that the Earl of Borland
should cast his eyes when he would upon a jewel in a cabinet!

Dawtie was very white as he signed his name. Where the others saw but a
legal ceremony, she feared her loved master was assigning his soul to
the devil, as she had read of Dr. Faustus in the old ballad. He was
gliding away into the dark, and no one to whom he had done a good turn
with the Mammon of unrighteousness, was waiting to receive him into an
everlasting habitation! She had and she needed no special cause to love
her master, any more than to love the chickens and the calves; she loved
because something that could be loved was there present to her; but he
had always spoken kindly to her, and been pleased with her endeavor to
serve him; and now he was going where she could do nothing for
him!--except pray, as her heart and Andrew had taught her, knowing that
"all live unto _Him!_" But alas! what were prayers where the man would
not take the things prayed for! Nevertheless all things _were_ possible
with God, and she _would_ pray for him!

It was also with white face, and it was with trembling hand that she
signed her own name, for she felt as if giving him a push down the icy
slope into the abyss.

But when the thing was done, the old man went quietly to sleep, and
dreamed of a radiant jewel, glorious as he had never seen jewel, ever
within yet ever eluding his grasp.



The next day he seemed better, and Alexa began to hope again. But in the
afternoon his pulse began to sink, and when Crawford came he could
welcome him only with a smile and a vain effort to put out his hand.
George bent down to him. The others, at a sign from his eyes, left the

"I can't find it, George!" he whispered.

"I put it away for you last night, you remember!" answered George.

"Oh, no, you didn't! I had it in my hand a minute ago! But I fell into a
doze, and it is gone! George, get it!--get it for me, or I shall go
mad!" George went and brought it him.

"Thank you! thank you! Now I remember! I thought I was in hell, and they
took it from me!"

"Don't you be afraid, sir! Fall asleep when you feel inclined. I will
keep my eye on the cup."

"You will not go away?"

"No; I will stay as long as you like; there is nothing to take me away.
If I had thought you would be worse, I would not have gone last night"

"I'm not worse! What put that in your head? Don't you hear me speaking
better? I've thought about it, George, and am convinced the cup is a
talisman! I am better all the time I hold it! It was because I let you
put it away that I was worse last night--for no other reason. If it were
not a talisman, how else could it have so nestled itself into my heart!
I feel better, always, the moment I take it in my hand! There is
something more than common about that chalice! George, what if it should
be the Holy Grail!"

He said it with bated breath, and a great white awe upon his
countenance. His eyes were shining; his breath came and went fast.
Slowly his aged cheeks flushed with two bright spots. He looked as if
the joy of his life was come.

"What if it should be the Holy Grail!" he repeated, and fell asleep with
the words on his lips.

As the evening deepened into night, he woke. Crawford was sitting beside
him. A change had come over him. He stared at George as if he could not
make him out, closed his eyes, opened them, stared, and again closed
them. He seemed to think he was there for no good.

"Would you like me to call Alexa?" said George.

"Call Dawtie; call Dawtie!" he replied.

George rose to go and call her.

"Beware of her!" said the laird, with glazy eyes, "Beware of Dawtie!"

"How?" asked George.

"Beware of her," he repeated. "If she can get the cup, she will! She
would take it from me now, if she dared! She will steal it yet! Call
Dawtie; call Dawtie!"

Alexa was in the drawing-room, on the other side of the hall. George
went and told her that her father wanted Dawtie.

"I will find her," she said, and rose, but turned and asked:

"How does he seem now?"

"Rather worse," George answered.

"Are you going to be with him through the night?"

"I am; he insists on my staying with him," replied George, almost

"Then," she returned, "you must have some supper. We will go down, and
send up Dawtie."

He followed her to the kitchen. Dawtie was not there, but her mistress
found her.

When she entered her master's room, he lay motionless, "and white with
the whiteness of what is dead."

She got brandy, and made him swallow some. As soon as he recovered a
little, he began to talk wildly.

"Oh, Agnes!" he cried, "do not leave me. I'm not a bad man! I'm not what
Dawtie calls me. I believe in the atonement; I put no trust in myself;
my righteousness is as filthy rags. Take me with you. I _will_ go with
you. There! Slip that under your white robe--washed in the blood of the
Lamb. That will hide it--with the rest of my sins! The unbelieving
husband is sanctified by the believing wife. Take it; take it; I should
be lost in heaven without it! I can't see what I've got on, but it must
be the robe of His righteousness, for I have none of my own! What should
I be without it! It's all I've got! I couldn't bring away a single thing
besides--and it's so cold to have but one thing on--I mean one thing in
your hands! Do you say they will make me sell it? That would be worse
than coming without it!"

He was talking to his wife!--persuading her to smuggle the cup into
heaven! Dawtie went on her knees behind the curtain, and began to pray
for him all she could. But something seemed stopping her, and making her
prayer come only from her lips.

"Ah," said the voice of her master, "I thought so! How could I go up,
and you praying against me like that! Cup or no cup, the thing was

Dawtie opened her eyes--and there he was, holding back the curtain and
looking round the edge of it with a face of eagerness, effort, and hate,
as of one struggling to go, and unable to break away.

She rose to her feet.

"You are a fiend!" he cried. "I _will_ go with Agnes!" He gave a cry,
and ceased, and all was still. They heard the cry in the kitchen, and
came running up.

They found Dawtie bending over her master, with a scared face. He seemed
to have struck her, for one cheek was marked with red streaks across its

"The Grail! the Holy Grail!" he cried. "I found it! I was bringing it
home! She took it from me! She wants it to--"

His jaw fell, and he was dead. Alexa threw herself beside the body.
George would have raised her, but she resisted, and lay motionless. He
stood then behind her, watching an opportunity to get the cup from under
the bed-clothes, that he might put it in the closet.

He ordered Dawtie to fetch water for her mistress; but Alexa told her
she did not want any. Once and again George tried to raise her, and get
his hand under the bed-clothes to feel for the cup.

"He is not dead!" cried Alexa; "he moved!"

"Get some brandy," said George.

She rose, and went to the table for the brandy. George, with the
pretense of feeling the dead man's heart, threw back the clothes. He
could find no cup. It had got further down! He would wait!

Alexa lifted her father's head on her arm, but it was plain that brandy
could not help. She went and sat on a chair away from the bed, hopeless
and exhausted.

George lifted the clothes from the foot of the bed, then from the
further side, and then from the nearer, without attracting her
attention. The cup was nowhere to be seen! He put his hand under the
body, but the cup was not there! He had to leave the room that Dawtie
and Meg might prepare it for burial. Alexa went to her chamber.

A moment after, George returned, called Meg to the door, and said:

"There must be a brass cup in the bed somewhere! I brought it to amuse
him. He was fond of odd things, you know! If you should find it--"

"I will take care of it," answered Meg, and turned from him curtly.

George felt he had not a friend in the house, and that he must leave
things as they were! The door of the closet was locked, and he could not
go again to the death-chamber to take the laird's keys from the head of
the bed! He knew that the two women would not let him. It had been an
oversight not to secure them! He was glad the watch was safe: that he
had put in the closet before!--but it mattered little when the cup was
missing! He went to the stable, got out his horse, and rode home in the
still gray of a midsummer night.

The stillness and the night seemed thinking to each other. George had
little imagination, but what he had woke in him now as he rode slowly
along. Step by step the old man seemed following him, on silent
church-yard feet, through the eerie whiteness of the night. There was
neither cloud nor moon, only stars above and around, and a great cold
crack in the north-east. He was crying after him, in a voice he could
not make him hear! Was he not straggling to warn him not to come into
like condemnation? The voice seemed trying to say, "I know! I know now!
I would not believe, but I know now! Give back the cup; give it back!"

George did not allow to himself that there was "anything" there. It was
but a vague movement in that commonplace, unmysterious region, his mind!
He heard nothing, positively nothing, with his ears--therefore there was
nothing! It was indeed somehow as if one were saying the words, but in
reality they came only as a thought rising, continually rising, in his
mind! It was but a thought-sound, and no speech: "I know now! I know
now! Give it back; give the cup back!" He did not ask himself how the
thought came; he cast it away as only that insignificant thing, a
thought--cast it away none the less that he found himself answering
it--"I can't give it back; I can't find it! Where did you put it? You
must have taken it with you!"

"What rubbish!" he said to himself ten times, waking up; "of course
Dawtie took it! Didn't the poor old fellow warn me to beware of her!
Nobody but her was in the room when we ran in, and found him at the
point of death! Where did you put it? I can't find it! I can't give it

He went over in his mind all that had taken place. The laird had the cup
when he left him to call Dawtie; and when they came, it was nowhere! He
was convinced the girl had secured it--in obedience, doubtless, to the
instruction of her director, ambitious to do justice, and curry favor by
restoring it! But he could do nothing till the will was read! Was it
possible Lexy had put it away? No; she had not had the opportunity!



With slow-pacing shadows, the hot hours crept athwart the heath, and the
house, and the dead, and carried the living with them in their invisible
current. There is no tide in time; it is a steady current, not
returning. Happy they whom it bears inward to the center of things!
Alas, for those whom it carries outward to "the flaming walls of
creation!" The poor old laird who, with all his refinement, all his
education, all his interest in philology, prosody, history, and
_reliquial_ humanity, had become the slave of a goblet, had left it
behind him, had faced the empty universe empty-handed, and vanished with
a shadow-goblet in his heart; the eyes that gloated over the gems had
gone to help the grass to grow. But the will of the dead remained to
trouble for a time the living, for it put his daughter in a painful
predicament: until Crawford's property was removed from the house, it
would give him constant opportunity of prosecuting the suit which Aleza
had reason to think he intended to resume, and the thought of which had
become to her insupportable.

Great was her astonishment when she learned to what the door in the
study led, and what a multitude of curious and valuable things were
there of whose presence in the house she had never dreamed. She would
gladly have had them for herself; and it pained her to the heart to
think of the disappointment of the poor ghost when he saw, if he could
see, his treasured hoard emptied out of its hidden and safe abode. For,
even if George should magnanimously protest that he did not care for the
things enough to claim them, and beg that they might remain where they
were, she could not grant his request, for it would be to accept them
from him. Had her father left them to her, she would have kept them as
carefully as even he could desire--with this difference only, that she
would not have shut them up from giving pleasure to others.

She was growing to care more about the truth--gradually coming to see
that much she had taken for a more liberal creed, was but the same
falsehoods in weaker forms, less repulsive only to a mind indifferent to
the paramount claims of God on His child. She saw something of the
falseness and folly of attempting to recommend religion as not so
difficult, so exclusive, so full of prohibition as our ancestors
believed it. She saw that, although Andrew might regard some things as
freely given which others thought God forbade, yet he insisted on what
was infinitely higher and more than the abandonment of everything
pleasant--the abnegation, namely, of the very self, and the reception of
God instead. She had hitherto been, with all her supposed progress, only
a recipient of the traditions of the elders! There must be a deeper
something--the real religion! She did not yet see that the will of God
lay in another direction altogether than the heartiest reception of
dogma!--that God was too great and too generous to care about anything
except righteousness, and only wanted us to be good children!--that even
honesty was but the path toward righteousness, a condition so pure that
honesty itself would never more be an object of thought!

She pondered much about her father, and would find herself praying for
him, careless of what she had been taught. She could not blind herself
to what she knew. He had not been a bad man, as men count badness, but
could she in common sense think him a glorified saint, shining in white
robes? The polite, kind old man! her own father!--could she, on the
other hand, believe him in flames forever? If so, what a religion was
that which required her to believe it, and at the same time to rejoice
in the Lord always!

She longed for something positive to believe, something into accordance
with which she might work her feelings. She was still on the outlook for
definite intellectual formulae to hold. Her intercourse with Andrew had
as yet failed to open her eyes to the fact that the faith required of us
is faith in a person, and not in the truest of statements concerning
anything, even concerning him; or to the fact, that faith in the living
One, the very essence of it, consists in obedience to Him. A man can
obey before he is sure, and except he obey the command he knows to be
right, wherever it may come from, he will never be sure. To find the
truth, man or woman must be true.

But she much desired another talk with Andrew.

Persuading himself that Alexa's former feeling toward him must in her
trouble reassert itself, and confident that he would find her loath to
part with her father's wonderful collection, George waited the effect of
the will. After the reading of it he had gone away directly, that his
presence might not add to the irritation which he concluded, not without
reason, it must, even in the midst of her sorrow, cause in her; but at
the end of a week he wrote, saying that he felt it his duty, if only in
gratitude to his friend, to inform himself as to the attention the
valuable things he had left him might require. He assured Alexa that he
had done nothing to influence her father in the matter, and much
regretted the awkward position in which his will had placed both her and
him. At the same time it was not unnatural that he should wish such
precious objects to be possessed by one who would care for them as he
had himself cared for them. He hoped, therefore, that she would allow
him access to her father's rooms. He would not, she might rest assured,
intrude himself upon her sorrow, though he would be compelled to ask her
before long whether he might hope that her father's wish would have any
influence in reviving the favor which had once been the joy of his life.

Alexa saw that if she consented to see him he would take it as a
permission to press his claim, and the idea was not to be borne. She
wrote him therefore a stiff letter, telling him the house was at his
service, but he must excuse herself.

The next morning brought him early to Potlurg. The cause of his haste
was his uneasiness about the chalice.

Old Meg opened the door to him, and he followed her straight into the
drawing-room. Alexa was there, and far from expecting him. But, annoyed
at his appearance as she was, she found his manner and behavior less
unpleasant than at any time since his return. He was gentle and
self-restrained, assuming no familiarity beyond that of a distant
relative, and gave the impression of having come against his will, and
only from a sense of duty.

"Did you not have my note?" she asked.

He had hoped, he said, to save her the trouble of writing.

She handed him her father's bunch of keys, and left the room.

George went to the laird's closet, and having spent an hour in it, again
sought Alexa. The wonderful watch was in his hand.

"I feel the more pleasure, Alexa," he said, "in begging you to accept
this trinket, that it was the last addition to your dear father's
collection. I had myself the good fortune to please him with it a few
days before his death."

"No, thank you, George," returned Alexa. "It is a beautiful thing--my
father showed it me--but I can not take it."

"It was more of you than him I thought when I purchased it, Alexa. You
know why I could not offer it you."

"The same reason exists now."

"I am sorry to have to force myself on your attention, but--"

"Dawtie!" cried Alexa.

Dawtie came running.

"Wait a minute, Dawtie. I will speak to you presently," said her

George rose. He had laid the watch on the table, and seemed to have
forgotten it.

"Please take the watch with you," said Alexa.

"Certainly, if you wish it!" he answered.

"And my father's keys, too," she added.

"Will you not be kind enough to take charge of them?"

"I would rather not be accountable for anything under them. No; you must
take the keys."

"I can not help regretting," said George, "that your honored father
should have thought fit to lay this burden of possession upon me."

Alexa made no answer.

"I comforted myself with the hope that you would feel them as much your
own as ever!" he resumed, in a tone of disappointment and dejection.

"I did not know of their existence before I knew they were never to be

"Never, Alexa?"


George walked to the door, but there turned, and said:

"By the way, you know that cup your father was so fond of?"


"Not that gold cup, set with stones?"

"I saw something in his hands once, in bed, that might have been a cup."

"It is a thing of great value--of pure gold, and every stone in it a

"Indeed!" returned Alexa, with marked indifference.

"Yes; it was the work of the famous Benvenuto Cellini, made for Pope
Clement the Seventh, for his own communion-chalice. Your father priced
it at three thousand pounds. In his last moments, when his mind was
wandering, he fancied it the Holy Grail He had it in the bed with him
when he died; that I know."

"And it is missing?"

"Perhaps Dawtie could tell us what has become of it. She was with the
laird at the last."

Dawtie, who had stood aside to let him pass to the open door, looked up
with a flash in her eyes, but said nothing.

"Have you seen the cup, Dawtie?" asked her mistress.

"No, ma'am."

"Do you know it?"

"Very well, ma'am."

"Then you don't know what has become of it?"

"No, ma'am; I know nothing about it."

"Take care, Dawtie," said George. "This is a matter that will have to be
searched into."

"When did you last see it, Dawtie?" inquired Alexa.

"The very day my master died, ma'am. He was looking at it, but when he
saw I saw him he took it inside the bed-clothes."

"And you have not seen it since?"

"No, ma'am."

"And you do not know where it is?" said George.

"No, sir. How should I?"

"You never touched it?"

"I can not say that, sir; I brought it him from his closet; he sent me
for it."

"What do you think may have become of it?"

"I don't know, sir."

"Would you allow me to make a thorough search in the place where it was
last seen?" asked George, turning to his cousin.

"By all means. Dawtie, go and help Mr. Crawford to look."

"Please, ma'am, it can't be there. We've had the carpet up, and the
floor scrubbed. There's not a hole or a corner we haven't been into--and
that yesterday."

"We must find it," said George. "It must be in the house."

"It must, sir," said Dawtie.

But George more than doubted it

"I do believe," he said, "the laird would rather have lost his whole

"Indeed, sir, I think he would."

"Then you have talked to him about it?"

"Yes, I have, sir," answered Dawtie, sorry she had brought out the

"And you know the worth of the thing?"

"Yes, sir; that is, I don't know how much it was worth, but I should say
pounds and pounds."

"Then, Dawtie, I must ask you again, _where is it?_"

"I know nothing about it, sir. I wish I did!"

"Why do you wish you did?"

"Because--" began Dawtie, and stopped short; she shrunk from impugning
the honesty of the dead man--and in the presence of his daughter.

"It looks a little fishy, don't it, Dawtie? Why not speak straight out?
Perhaps you would not mind searching Meg's trunk for me. She may have
taken it for a bit of old brass, you know."

"I will answer for my servants, Mr. Crawford," said Alexa. "I will not
have old Meg's box searched."

"It is desirable to get rid of any suspicion," replied George.

"I have none," returned Alexa.

George was silent

"I will ask Meg, if you like, sir," said Dawtie; "but I am sure it will
be no use. A servant in this house soon learns not to go by the look of
things. We don't treat anything here as if we knew all about it."

"When did you see the goblet first?" persisted George.

"Goblet, sir? I thought you were speaking of the gold cup."

By _goblet_ Dawtie understood a small iron pot.

"Goblet, or cup, or chalice--whatever you like to call it--I ask how you
came to know about it."

"I know very little about it."

"It is plain you know more than you care to tell. If you will not answer
me you will have to answer a magistrate."

"Then I will answer a magistrate," said Dawtie, beginning to grow angry.

"You had better answer me, Dawtie. It will be easier for you. What do
you know about the cup?"

"I know it was not master's, and is not yours--really and truly."

"What can have put such a lie in your head?"

"If it be a lie, sir, it is told in plain print."


But Dawtie judged it time to stop. She bethought herself that she would
not have said so much had she not been angry.

"Sir," she answered, "you have been asking me questions all this time,
and I have been answering them; it is your turn to answer me one."

"If I see proper."

"Did my old master tell you the history of that cup?"

"I do not choose to answer the question."

"Very well, sir."

Dawtie turned to leave the room.

"Stop! stop!" cried Crawford; "I have not done with you yet, my girl.
You have not told me what you meant when you said the cup did not belong
to the laird."

"I do not choose to answer the question," said Dawtie.

"Then you shall answer it to a magistrate."

"I will, sir," she replied, and stood.

Crawford left the room.

He rode home in a rage. Dawtie went about her work with a bright spot on
each cheek, indignant at the man's rudeness, but praying God to take her
heart in His hand, and cool the fever of it.

The words rose in her mind:

"It must needs be that offenses come, but woe onto that man by whom they

She was at once filled with pity for the man who could side with the
wrong, and want everything his own way, for, sooner or later, confusion
must be his portion; the Lord had said: "There is nothing covered that
shall not be revealed, neither hid that shall not be known."

"He needs to be shamed," she said, "but he is thy child; care for him,

George felt that he had not borne a dignified part, and knew that his
last chance with Alexa was gone. Then he too felt the situation
unendurable, and set about removing his property. He wrote to Alexa that
he could no longer doubt it her wish to be rid of the collection, and
able to use the room. It was desirable also, he said, that a thorough
search should be made in those rooms before he placed the matter of the
missing cup in the hands of the magistrates.

Dawtie's last words had sufficed to remove any lingering doubt as to
what had become of the chalice. It did not occur to him that one so
anxious to do the justice of restoration would hardly be capable of
telling lies, of defiling her soul that a bit of property might be
recovered; he took it for granted that she meant to be liberally
rewarded by the earl.

George would have ill understood the distinction Dawtie made--that the
body of the cup _might_ belong to him, but the soul of the cup _did_
belong to another; or her assertion that where the soul was there the
body ought to be; or her argument that He who had the soul had the right
to ransom the body--a reasoning possible to a child-like nature only;
she had pondered to find the true law of the case, and this was her

George suspected, and grew convinced that Alexa was a party to the
abstraction of the cup. She had, he said, begun to share in the
extravagant notions of a group of pietists whose leader was that
detestable fellow, Ingram. Alexa was attached to Dawtie, and Dawtie was
one of them. He believed Alexa would do anything to spite him. To bring
trouble on Dawtie would be to punish her mistress, and the pious farmer,



As soon as Crawford had his things away from Potlurg, satisfied the cup
was nowhere among them, he made a statement of the case to a magistrate
he knew; and so represented it, as the outcome of the hypocrisy of
pietism, that the magistrate, hating everything called fanatical, at
once granted him a warrant to apprehend Dawtie on the charge of theft.

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