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Donal Grant by George MacDonald


BUT his lordship had his suspicions, and took measures to confirm or set them at rest -- with the result that he concluded Donal madly in love with his niece, and unable, while she was ill, to rest anywhere but, with the devotion of a savage, outside her door: if he did not take precautions, the lout would oust the lord! Ever since Donal spoke so plainly against his self-indulgence, he had not merely hated but feared the country lad. He recognized that Donal feared nothing, had no respect of persons, would speak out before the world. He was doubtful also whether he had not allowed him to know more than it was well he should know. It was time to get rid of him -- only it must be done cautiously, with the appearance of a good understanding! If he had him out of the house before she was able to see him again, that would do! And if in the meantime she should die, all would be well! His distrust, once roused, went farther than that of his son. He had not the same confidence in blue blood; he knew a few things more than Forgue -- believed it quite possible that the daughter of a long descent of lords and ladies should fall in love with a shepherd-lad. And as no one could tell what might have to be done if the legal owner of the property persisted in refusing her hand to the rightful owner of it, the fellow might be seriously in the way!

Arctura slowly recovered. She had not yet left her room, but had been a few hours on the couch every day for a fortnight, and the doctor, now sanguine of her final recovery, began to talk of carrying her to the library. The earl, who never suspected that Mrs. Brookes, having hitherto kept himself from her room, would admit the tutor, the moment he learned that the library was in view for her, decided that there must be no more delay. He had by this time contrived a neat little plan.

He sent for Donal. He had been thinking, the earl said, that he must want a holiday: he had not seen his parents since he came to the castle! and he had been thinking besides, how desirable it was that Davie should see some other phases of life than those to which he had hitherto been accustomed. There was great danger of boys brought up in his position getting narrow, and careless of the lives and feelings of their fellowmen! He would take it as a great kindness if Donal, who had a regard to the real education of his pupil, would take him to his home, and let him understand the ways of life among the humbler classes of the nation -- so that, if ever he went into parliament, he might have the advantage of knowing the heart of the people for whom he would have to legislate.

Donal listened, and could not but agree with the remarks of his lordship. In himself he had not the least faith -- wondered indeed which of them thought the other the greater fool to imagine that after all that had passed Donal would place any confidence in what the earl said; but he listened. What lord Morven really had in his mind, he could not surmise; but not the less to take Davie to his father and mother was a delightful idea. The boy was growing fast, and had revealed a faculty quite rare in one so young, for looking to the heart of things, and seeing the relation of man to man; therefore such a lesson as the earl proposed would indeed be invaluable to him! Then again, this faculty had been opened in him through a willing perception of those eternal truths, in a still higher relation of persons, which are open only to the childlike nature; whence he would be especially fitted for such company as that of his father and mother, who could now easily receive the boy as well as himself, since their house and their general worldly condition had been so much bettered by their friend, sir Gibbie! With them Davie would see genuine life, simplicity, dignity, and unselfishness -- the very embodiment of the things he held constantly before him! There might be some other reason behind the earl's request which it would be well for him to know; but he would sooner discover that by a free consent than by hanging back: anything bad it could hardly be! He shrank indeed from leaving lady Arctura while she was yet so far from well, but she was getting well much faster now: for a fortnight there had been no necessity for his presence to soothe her while she slept. Neither did she yet know, so far, at least, as he or mistress Brookes was aware, that he had ever been near her in the night! It was well also because of the position of things between him and lord Forgue, that he should be away for a while: it would give a chance for that foolish soul to settle down, and let common sense assume the reins, while yet the better coachman was not allowed to mount the box! He had, of course, heard nothing of the strained relations between him and lady Arctura; he might otherwise have been a little more anxious. For the earl, Davie, he thought, would be a kind of pledge or hostage -- in regard of what, he could not specify; but, though he little suspected what such a man was capable of sacrificing to gain a cherished end, some security for him, some hold over him, seemed to Donal not undesirable.

When Davie heard the proposal, he was wild with joy. Actually to see the mountains, and the sheep, and the colleys, of which Donal had told him such wonderful things! To be out all night, perhaps, with Donal and the dogs and the stars and the winds! Perhaps a storm would come, and he would lie in Donal's plaid under some great rock, and hear the wind roaring around them, but not able to get at them! And the sheep would come and huddle close up to them, and keep them warm with their woolly sides! and he would stroke their heads and love them! Davie was no longer a mere child -- far from it; but what is loveliest in the child's heart was only the stronger in him; and the prospect of going with Donal was a thing to be dreamed of day and night till it came! Nor were the days many before their departure was definitely settled.

The earl would have Mr. Grant treat his pupil precisely as one of his own standing: he might take him on foot if he pleased!

The suggestion was eagerly accepted by both. They got their boxes ready for the carrier, packed their wallets, and one lovely morning late in spring, just as summer was showing her womanly face through its smiles and tears, they set out together.

It was with no small dismay that Arctura heard of the proposal. She said nothing, however -- only when Donal came to take his leave she broke down a little.

|We shall often wish, Davie and I, that you were with us, my lady,| he said.

|Why?| she asked, unable to say more.

|Because we shall often feel happy, and what then can we do but wish you shared our happiness!|

She burst into tears, and presently was able to speak.

|Don't think me silly,| she said. |I know God is with me, and as soon as you are gone I will go to him to comfort me. But I cannot help feeling as if you were leaving me like a lamb among wolves. I can give no reason for it; I only feel as if some danger were near me. But I have you yet, mistress Brookes: God and you will take care of me! -- Indeed, if I hadn't you,| she added, laughing through her tears, |I should run away with Mr. Grant and Davie!|

|If I had known you felt like that,| said Donal, |I would not have gone. Yet I hardly see how I could have avoided it, being Davie's tutor, and bound to do as his father wishes with him. Only, dear lady Arctura, there is no chance in this or in anything! We will not forget you, and in three weeks or a month we shall be back.|

|That is a long time,| said Arctura, ready to weep again.

Is it necessary to say she was not a weak woman? It is not betrayal of feeling, but avoidance of duty, that constitutes weakness. After an illness he has borne like a hero, a strong man may be ready to weep like a child. What the common people of society think about strength and weakness, is poor stuff, like the rest of their wisdom.

She speedily recovered her composure, and with the gentlest smile bade Donal good-bye. She was in her sitting-room next the state-chamber where she now slept; the sun was shining in at the open window, and with it came the song of a little bird, clear and sweet.

|You hear him,| said Donal. | -- how he trusts God without knowing it! We are made able to trust him knowing in whom we believe! Ah, dear lady Arctura! no heart even yet can tell what things God has in store for them who will just let him have his way with them. Good-bye. Write to me if anything comes to you that I can help you in. And be sure I will make haste to you the moment you let me know you want me.|

|Thank you, Mr. Grant: I know you mean every word you say! If I need you, I will not hesitate to send for you -- only if you come, it will be as my friend, and not -- |

|It will be as your servant, not lord Morven's,| said Donal. |I quite understand. Good bye. The father of Jesus Christ, who was so sure of him, will take care of you: do not be afraid.|

He turned and went; he could no longer bear the look of her eyes.

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