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Donal Grant by George MacDonald


THEY were hardly seated when Simmons appeared, saying he had been looking everywhere for her ladyship, for his lordship was taken as he had never seen him before: he had fainted right out in the half-way room, and he could not get him to.

Having given orders to send at once to Auchars for the doctor, lady Arctura hastened with Donal to the room on the stair. The earl was stretched motionless and pale on the floor. But for a slight twitching in one muscle of the face, they might have concluded him dead. They tried to get something down his throat, but without success. The men carried him up to his chamber.

He began to come to himself, and lady Arctura left him, telling Simmons to come to the library when he could, and let them know how he was.

In about an hour he came: the doctor had been, and his master was better.

|Do you know any cause for the attack?| asked her ladyship.

|I'll tell you all about it, my lady, so far as I know,| answered the butler. | -- I was there in that room with him -- I had taken him some accounts, and was answering some questions about them, when all at once there came a curious noise in the wall. I can't think what it was -- an inward rumbling it was, that seemed to go up and down the wall with a sort of groaning, then stopped a while, and came again. It sounded nothing very dreadful to me; perhaps if it had been in the middle of the night, I mightn't have liked it. His lordship started at the first sound of it, turned pale and gasped, then cried out, laid his hand on his heart, and rolled off his chair. I did what I could for him, but it wasn't like one of his ordinary attacks, and so I came to your ladyship. He's such a ticklish subject, you see, my lady! It's quite alarming to be left alone with him. It's his heart; and you know, my lady -- I should be sorry to frighten you, but you know, Mr. Grant, a gentleman with that complaint may go off any moment. I must go back to him now, my lady, if you please.|

Arctura turned and looked at Donal.

|We must be careful,| he said.

|We must,| she answered. |Just thereabout is one of the few places in the house where you hear the music.|

|And thereabout the music-chimney goes down! That is settled! But why should my lord be frightened so?|

|I cannot tell. He is not like other people, you know.|

|Where else is the music heard? You and your uncle seem to hear it oftener than anyone else.|

|In my own room. But we will talk to-morrow. Good night.|

|I will remain here the rest of the evening,| said Donal, |in case Simmons might want me to help with his lordship.|

It was well into the night, and he still sat reading in the library, when Mrs. Brookes came to him. She had had to get his lordship |what he ca'd a cat -- something or ither, but was naething but mustard to the soles o' 's feet to draw awa' the bluid.|

|He's better the noo,| she said. |He's taen a doze o' ane o' thae drogues he's aye potterin' wi' -- fain to learn the trade o' livin' for ever, I reckon! But that's a thing the Lord has keepit in 's ain han's. The tree o' life was never aten o', an' never wull be noo i' this warl'; it's lang transplantit. But eh, as to livin' for ever, or I wud be his lordship, I wud gie up the ghost at ance!|

|What makes you say that, mistress Brookes?| asked Donal.

|It's no ilk ane I wud answer sic a queston til,| she replied; |but I'm weel assured ye hae sense an' hert eneuch baith, no to hurt a cratur'; an' I'll jist gang sae far as say to yersel', an' 'atween the twa o' 's, 'at I hae h'ard frae them 'at's awa' -- them 'at weel kent, bein' aboot the place an' trustit -- that whan the fit was upon him, he was fell cruel to the bonnie wife he merriet abro'd an' broucht hame wi' him -- til a cauld-hertit country, puir thing, she maun hae thoucht it!|

|How could he have been cruel to her in the house of his brother? Even if he was the wretch to be guilty of it, his brother would never have connived at the ill-treatment of any woman under his roof!|

|Hoo ken ye the auld yerl sae weel?| asked Mrs. Brookes, with a sly glance.

|I ken,| answered Donal, direct as was his wont, but finding somehow a little shelter in the dialect, |'at sic a dauchter could ill hae been born to ony but a man 'at -- weel, 'at wad at least behave til a wuman like a man.|

|Ye're i' the richt! He was the ten'erest-heartit man! But he was far frae stoot, an' was a heap by himsel', nearhan' as mickle as his lordship the present yerl. An' the lady was that prood, an' that dewotit to the man she ca'd her ain, that never a word o' what gaed on cam to the ears o' his brither, I daur to say, or I s' warran' ye there wud hae been a fine steer! It cam, she said -- my auld auntie said -- o' some kin' o' madness they haena a name for yet. I think mysel' there's a madness o' the hert as weel 's o' the heid; an' i' that madness men tak their women for a property o' their ain, to be han'led ony gait the deevil puts intil them. Cries i' the deid o' the nicht, an' never a shaw i' the mornin' but white cheeks an' reid een, tells its ain tale. I' the en', the puir leddy dee'd, 'at micht hae lived but for him; an' her bairnie dee'd afore her; an' the wrangs o' bairns an' women stick lang to the wa's o' the universe! It was said she cam efter him again; -- I kenna; but I hae seen an' h'ard i' this hoose what -- I s' haud my tongue aboot! -- Sure I am he wasna a guid man to the puir wuman! -- whan it comes to that, maister Grant, it's no my leddy an' mem, but we're a' women thegither! She dee'dna i' this hoose, I un'erstan'; but i' the hoose doon i' the toon -- though that's neither here nor there. I wadna won'er but the conscience micht be waukin' up intil him! Some day it maun wauk up. He'll be sorry, maybe, whan he kens himsel' upo' the border whaur respec' o' persons is ower, an' a woman s' a guid 's a man -- maybe a wheen better! The Lord 'll set a' thing richt, or han' 't ower til anither!|

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