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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER XIII. A STORM.

David Elginbrod by George MacDonald

CHAPTER XIII. A STORM.

When the mind's free,

The body's delicate: the tempest in my mind

Doth from my senses take all feeling else

Save what beats there.

King Lear.

WHILE Harry took to wandering abroad in the afternoon sun, Hugh, on the contrary, found the bright weather so distasteful to him, that he generally trifled away his afternoons with some old romance in the dark library, or lay on the couch in his study, listless and suffering. He could neither read nor write. What he felt he must do he did; but nothing more.

One day, about noon, the weather began to change. In the afternoon it grew dark; and Hugh, going to the window, perceived with delight -- the first he had experienced for many days -- that a great thunder-storm was at hand. Harry was rather frightened; but under his fear, there evidently lay a deep delight. The storm came nearer and nearer; till at length a vivid flash broke from the mass of darkness over the woods, lasted for one brilliant moment, and vanished. The thunder followed, like a pursuing wild beast, close on the traces of the vanishing light; as if the darkness were hunting the light from the earth, and bellowing with rage that it could not overtake and annihilate it. Without the usual prelude of a few great drops, the rain poured at once, in continuous streams, from the dense canopy overhead; and in a few moments there were six inches of water all round the house, which the force of the falling streams made to foam, and fume, and flash like a seething torrent. Harry had crept close to Hugh, who stood looking out of the window; and as if the convulsion of the elements had begun to clear the spiritual and moral, as well as the physical atmosphere, Hugh looked down on the boy kindly, and put his arm round his shoulders. Harry nestled closer, and wished it would thunder for ever. But longing to hear his tutor's voice, he ventured to speak, looking up to his face:

|Euphra says it is only electricity, Mr. Sutherland. What is that?|

A common tutor would have seized the opportunity of explaining what he knew of the laws and operations of electricity. But Hugh had been long enough a pupil of David to feel that to talk at such a time of anything in nature but God, would be to do the boy a serious wrong. One capable of so doing would, in the presence of the Saviour himself, speculate on the nature of his own faith; or upon the death of his child, seize the opportunity of lecturing on anatomy. But before Hugh could make any reply, a flash, almost invisible from excess of light, was accompanied rather than followed by a roar that made the house shake; and in a moment more the room was filled with the terrified household, which, by an unreasoning impulse, rushed to the neighbourhood of him who was considered the strongest. -- Mr. Arnold was not at home.

|Come from the window instantly, Mr. Sutherland. How can you be so imprudent!| cried Mrs. Elton, her usually calm voice elevated in command, but tremulous with fear.

|Why, Mrs. Elton,| answered Hugh on whose temper, as well as conduct, recent events had had their operation, |do you think the devil makes the thunder?|

Lady Emily gave a faint shriek, whether out of reverence for the devil, or fear of God, I hesitate to decide; and flitting out of the room, dived into her bed, and drew the clothes over her head -- at least so she was found at a later period of the day. Euphra walked up to the window beside Hugh, as if to show her approval of his rudeness; and stood looking out with eyes that filled their own night with home-born flashes, though her lip was pale, and quivered a little. Mrs. Elton, confounded at Hugh's reply, and perhaps fearing the house might in consequence share the fate of Sodom, notwithstanding the presence of a goodly proportion of the righteous, fled, accompanied by the housekeeper, to the wine-cellar. The rest of the household crept into corners, except the coachman, who, retaining his composure, in virtue of a greater degree of insensibility from his nearer approximation to the inanimate creation, emptied the jug of ale intended for the dinner of the company, and went out to look after his horses.

But there was one in the house who, left alone, threw the window wide open; and, with gently clasped hands and calm countenance, looked up into the heavens; and the clearness of whose eye seemed the prophetic symbol of the clearness that rose all untroubled above the turmoil of the earthly storm. Truly God was in the storm; but there was more of God in the clear heaven beyond; and yet more of Him in the eye that regarded the whole with a still joy, in which was mingled no dismay.

Euphra, Hugh, and Harry were left together, looking out upon the storm. Hugh could not speak in Harry's presence. At length the boy sat down in a dark corner on the floor, concealed from the others by a window-curtain. Hugh thought he had left the room.

|Euphra,| he began.

Euphra looked round for Harry, and not seeing him, thought likewise that he had left the room: she glided away without making any answer to Hugh's invocation.

He stood for a few moments in motionless despair; then glancing round the room, and taking in all its desertedness, caught up his hat, and rushed out into the storm. It was the best relief his feelings could have had; for the sullen gloom, alternated with bursts of flame, invasions of horrid uproar, and long wailing blasts of tyrannous wind, gave him his own mood to walk in; met his spirit with its own element; widened, as it were, his microcosm to the expanse of the macrocosm around him. All the walls of separation were thrown down, and he lived, not in his own frame, but in the universal frame of nature. The world was for the time, to the reality of his feeling, what Schleiermacher, in his Monologen, describes it as being to man, an extension of the body in which he dwells. His spirit flashed in the lightning, raved in the thunder, moaned in the wind, and wept in the rain.

But this could not last long, either without or within him.

He came to himself in the woods. How far he had wandered, or whereabout he was, he did not know. The storm had died away, and all that remained was the wind and the rain. The tree-tops swayed wildly in the irregular blasts, and shook new, fitful, distracted, and momentary showers upon him. It was evening, but what hour of the evening he could not tell. He was wet to the skin; but that to a young Scotchman is a matter of little moment.

Although he had no intention of returning home for some time, and meant especially to avoid the dinner-table -- for, in the mood he was in, it seemed more than he could endure -- he yet felt the weakness to which we are subject as embodied beings, in a common enough form; that, namely, of the necessity of knowing the precise portion of space which at the moment we fill; a conviction of our identity not being sufficient to make us comfortable, without a knowledge of our locality. So, looking all about him, and finding where the wood seemed thinnest, he went in that direction; and soon, by forcing his way through obstacles of all salvage kinds, found himself in the high road, within a quarter of a mile of the country town next to Arnstead, removed from it about three miles. This little town he knew pretty well; and, beginning to feel exhausted, resolved to go to an inn there, dry his clothes, and then walk back in the moonlight; for he felt sure the storm would be quite over in an hour or so. The fatigue he now felt was proof enough in itself, that the inward storm had, for the time, raved itself off; and now -- must it be confessed? -- he wished very much for something to eat and drink.

He was soon seated by a blazing fire, with a chop and a jug of ale before him.

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