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Image Map : Christian Books : CHAPTER XXXVI. A NIGHT-WATCH.

Donal Grant by George MacDonald


WHEN he reached the bottom of the hill, there at the gate was Forgue, walking up and down, apparently waiting for him. He would have passed him, but Forgue stepped in front of him.

|Grant,| he said, |it is well we should understand each other!|

|I think, my lord, if you do not yet understand me, it can scarcely be my fault.|

|What did my father say?|

|I would deliver to your lordship a message he gave me for you but for two reasons -- one, that I believe he changed his mind though he did not precisely say so, and the other, that I will not serve him or you in the matter.|

|Then you intend neither to meddle nor make?|

|That is my affair, my lord. I will not take your lordship into my confidence.|

|Don't be unreasonable, now! Do get off your high horse. Can't you understand a fellow? Everybody can't keep his temper as you do! I mean the girl no harm.|

|I will not talk with you about her. And whatever you insist on saying to me, I will use against you without scruple, should occasion offer.|

As he spoke he caught a look on Forgue's face which revealed somehow that it was not for him he had been waiting, but for Eppy. He turned and went back towards the castle: he might meet her! Forgue called after him, but he paid no heed.

As he hastened up the hill, not so much as the rustle of bird or mouse did he hear. He lingered about the top of the road for half an hour, then turned and went to the cobbler's.

He found Doory in great distress; for she was not merely sore troubled about her son's child, but Andrew was in bed and suffering great pain. The moment Donal saw him he went for the doctor. He said a rib was broken, bound him up, and gave him some medicine. All done that could be done, Donal sat down to watch beside him.

He lay still, with closed eyes and white face. So patient was he that his very pain found utterance in a sort of blind smile. Donal did not know much about pain: he could read in Andrew's look his devotion to the will of him whose being was his peace, but he did not know above what suffering his faith lifted him, and held him hovering yet safe. His faith made him one with life, the eternal Life -- and that is salvation.

In closest contact with the divine, the original relation restored, the source once more holding its issue, the divine love pouring itself into the deepest vessel of the man's being, itself but a vessel for the holding of the diviner and divinest, who can wonder if keenest pain should not be able to quench the smile of the prostrate! Few indeed have reached the point of health to laugh at disease, but are there none? Let not a man say because he cannot that no one can.

The old woman was very calm, only every now and then she would lift her hands and shake her head, and look as if the universe were going to pieces, because her husband lay there by the stroke of the ungodly. And if he had lain there forgotten, then indeed the universe would have been going to pieces! When he coughed, every pang seemed to go through her body to her heart. Love is as lovely in the old as in the young -- lovelier when in them, as often, it is more sympathetic and unselfish -- that is, more true.

Donal wrote to Mrs. Brookes that he would not be home that night; and having found a messenger at the inn, settled himself to watch by his friend.

The hours glided quietly over. Andrew slept a good deal, and seemed to have pleasant visions. He was finding yet more saving. Now and then his lips would move as if he were holding talk with some friendly soul. Once Donal heard the murmured words, |Lord, I'm a' yer ain;| and noted that his sleep grew deeper thereafter. He did not wake till the day began to dawn. Then he asked for some water. Seeing Donal, and divining that he had been by his bedside all the night, he thanked him with a smile and a little nod -- which somehow brought to his memory certain words Andrew had spoken on another occasion: |There's ane, an' there's a'; an' the a' 's ane, an' the ane 's a'.|

When Donal reached the castle, he found his breakfast and Mrs. Brookes waiting for him. She told him that Eppy, meeting her in the passage the night before, had burst into tears, but she could get nothing out of her, and had sent her to her room; this morning she had not come down at the proper time, and when she sent after her, did not come: she went up herself, and found her determined to leave the castle that very day; she was now packing her things to go, nor did she see any good in trying to prevent her.

Donal said if she would go home, there was plenty for her to do there; old people's bones were not easy to mend, and it would be some time before her grandfather was well again!

Mrs. Brookes said she would not keep her now if she begged to stay; she was afraid she would come to grief, and would rather she went home; she would take her home herself.

|The lass is no an ill ane,| she added: | but she disna ken what she wud be at. She wants some o' the Lord's ain discipleen, I'm thinkin!|

|An' that ye may be sure she'll get, mistress Brookes!| said Donal.

Eppy was quite ready to go home and help nurse her grandfather. She thought her conduct must by this time be the talk of the castle, and was in mortal terror of lord Morven. All the domestics feared him -- it would be hard to say precisely why; it came in part of seeing him so seldom that he had almost come to represent the ghost some said lived in the invisible room and haunted the castle.

It was the easier for Eppy to go home that her grandmother needed her, and that her grandfather would not be able to say much to her. She was an affectionate girl, and yet her grandfather's condition roused in her no indignation; for the love of being loved is such a blinding thing, that the greatest injustice from the dearest to the next dearest will by some natures be readily tolerated. God help us! we are a mean set -- and meanest the man who is ablest to justify himself!

Mrs. Brookes, having prepared a heavy basket of good things for Eppy to carry home to her grandmother, and made it the heavier for the sake of punishing her with the weight of it, set out with her, saying to herself,

|The jaud wants a wheen harder wark nor I hae hauden till her han', an' doobtless it's preparin' for her!|

She was kindly received, without a word of reproach, by her grandmother; the sufferer, forgetful of, or forgiving her words of rejection in the garden, smiled when she came near his bedside; and she turned away to conceal the tears she could not repress. She loved her grand-parents, and she loved the young lord, and she could not get the two loves to dwell together peaceably in her mind -- a common difficulty with our weak, easily divided, hardly united natures -- frangible, friable, readily distorted! It needs no less than God himself, not only to unite us to one another, but to make a whole of the ill-fitting, roughly disjointed portions of our individual beings. Tearfully but diligently she set about her duties; and not only the heart, but the limbs and joints of her grandmother were relieved by her presence; while doubtless she herself found some refuge from anxious thought in the service she rendered. What she saw as her probable future, I cannot say; one hour her confidence in her lover's faithfulness would be complete, the next it would be dashed with huge blots of uncertainty; but her grandmother rejoiced over her as out of harm's way.

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