ALL through the terrible time, the sense of help and comfort and protection in the presence of the young tutor, went on growing in the mind of Arctura. It was nothing to her -- what could it be? -- that he was the son of a very humble pair; that he had been a shepherd, and a cow-herd, and a farm labourer -- less than nothing. She never thought of the facts of his life except sympathetically, seeking to enter into the feelings of his memorial childhood and youth; she would never have known anything of those facts but for their lovely intimacies of all sorts with Nature -- nature divine, human, animal, cosmical. By sharing with her his emotional history, Donal had made its facts precious to her; through them he had gathered his best -- by home and by prayer, by mother and father, by sheep and mountains and wind and sky. And now he was to her a tower of strength, a refuge, a strong city, the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. She trusted him the more that he never invited her trust -- never put himself before her; for always before her he set Life, the perfect heart-origin of her and his yet unperfected humanity, teaching her to hunger and thirst after being righteous like God, with the assurance of being filled. She had once trusted in Miss Carmichael, not with her higher being, only with her judgment, and both her judgment and her friend had misled her. Donal had taught her that obedience, not to man but to God, was the only guide to holy liberty, and so had helped her to break the bonds of those traditions which, in the shape of authoritative utterances of this or that church, lay burdens grievous to be borne upon the souls of men. For Christ, against all the churches, seemed to her to express Donal's mission. An air of peace, an atmosphere of summer twilight after the going down of the sun, seemed to her to precede him and announce his approach with a radiation felt as rest. She questioned herself nowise about him. Falling in love was a thing unsuggested to her; if she was in what is called danger, it was of a better thing.
The next day she did not appear: mistress Brookes had persuaded her to keep her bed again for a day or two. There was nothing really the matter with her, she said herself, but she was so tired she did not care to lift her head from the pillow. She had slept well, and was troubled about nothing. She sent to beg Mr. Grant to let Davie go and read to her, and to give him something to read, good for him as well as for her.
Donal did not see Davie again till the next morning.
|Oh, Mr. Grant!| he said, |you never saw anything so pretty as Arkie is in bed! She is so white, and so sweet! and she speaks with a voice so gentle and low! She was so kind to me for going to read to her! I never saw anybody like her! She looks as if she had just said her prayers, and God had told her she should have everything she wanted.|
Donal wondered a little, but hoped more. Surely she must be finding rest in the consciousness of God! But why was she so white? Was she going to die? A pang shot to his heart: if she were to go from the castle, it would be hard to stay in it, even for the sake of Davie! Donal, no more than Arctura, imagined himself fallen in love: he had loved once, and his heart had not yet done aching -- though more with the memory than the presence of pain! He was utterly satisfied with what the Father of the children had decreed, and would never love again! But he did not seek to hide from himself that the friendship of lady Arctura, and the help she sought and he gave, had added a fresh and strong interest to his life. At the first dawn of power in his heart, when he began to make songs in the fields and on the hills, he had felt that to brighten with true light the clouded lives of despondent brothers and sisters was the one thing worthest living for: it was what the Lord came into the world for; neither had his trouble made him forget it -- for more than one week or so: while the pain was yet gnawing grievously, he woke to it again with self-accusation -- almost self-contempt. To have helped this lovely creature, whose life had seemed lapt in an ever closer-clasping shroud of perplexity, was a thing to be glad of -- not to the day of his death, but to the never-ending end of his life! was an honour conferred upon him by the Father, to last for evermore! For he had helped to open a human door for the Lord to enter! she within heard him knock, but, trying, was unable to open! To be God's helper with our fellows is the one high calling; the presence of God in the house the one high condition.
At the end of a week Arctura was better, and able to see Donal. She had had mistress Brookes's bed moved into the same room with her own, and had made the dressing-room into a sitting-room. It was sunny and pleasant -- the very place, Donal thought, he would have chosen for her. The bedroom too, which the housekeeper had persuaded her to take when she left her own, was one of the largest in the castle -- the Garland-room -- old-fashioned, of course, but as cheerful as stateliness would permit, with gorgeous hangings and great pictures -- far from homely, but with sun in it half the day. Donal congratulated her on the change. She had been prevented from making one sooner, she said, by the dread of owing any comfort to circumstance: it might deceive her as to her real condition!
|It could not deceive God, though,| answered Donal, |who fills with righteousness those who hunger after it. It is pride to refuse anything that might help us to know him; and of all things his sun-lit world speaks of the father of lights! If that makes us happier, it makes us fitter to understand him, and he can easily send what cloud may be needful to temper it. We must not make our own world, inflict our own punishments, or order our own instruction; we must simply obey the voice in our hearts, and take lovingly what he sends.|
The next day she told him she had had a beautiful night, full of the loveliest dreams. One of them was, that a child came out of a grassy hillock by the wayside, called her mamma, and said she was much obliged to her for taking her off the cold stone, and making her a butterfly; and with that the child spread out gorgeous and great wings and soared up to a white cloud, and there sat laughing merrily to her.
Every afternoon Davie read to her, and thence Donal gained a duty -- that of finding suitable pabulum for the two. He was not widely read in light literature, and it made necessary not a little exploration in the region of it.