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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER XVIII. VICTORY.

David Elginbrod by George MacDonald

CHAPTER XVIII. VICTORY.

O my admired mistress, quench not out

The holy fires within you, though temptations

Shower down upon you: clasp thine armour on;

Fight well, and thou shalt see, after these wars,

Thy head wear sunbeams, and thy feet touch stars.

MASSINGER. -- The Virgin Martyr.

BUT Hugh could sleep no more than if he had been out with Falconer. He was as restless as a wild beast in a cage. Something would not let him be at peace. So he rose, dressed, and went out. As soon as he turned the corner, he could see Mrs. Elton's house. It was visible both by intermittent moonlight above, and by flickering gaslight below, for the wind blew rather strong. There was snow in the air, he knew. The light they had observed last night, was burning now. A moment served to make these observations; and then Hugh's eyes were arrested by the sight of something else -- a man walking up and down the pavement in front of Mrs. Elton's house. He instantly stepped into the shadow of a porch to watch him. The figure might be the count's; it might not; he could not be sure. Every now and then the man looked up to the windows. At length he stopped right under the lighted one, and looked up. Hugh was on the point of gliding out, that he might get as near him as possible before rushing on him, when, at the moment, to his great mortification, a policeman emerged from some mysterious corner, and the figure instantly vanished in another. Hugh did not pursue him; because it would be to set all on a single chance, and that a poor one; for if the count, should it be he, succeeded in escaping, he would not return to a spot which he knew to be watched. Hugh, therefore, withdrew once more under a porch, and waited. But, whatever might be the cause, the man made his appearance no more. Hugh contrived to keep watch for two hours, in spite of suspicious policemen. He slept late into the following morning.

Calling at Mrs. Elton's, he learned that the count had not been there; that Miss Cameron had been very ill all night; but that she was rather better since the morning.

That night, as the preceding, Margaret had awaked suddenly. Euphra was not in the bed beside her. She started up in an agony of terror; but it was soon allayed, though not removed. She saw Euphra on her knees at the foot of the bed, an old-fashioned four-post one. She had her arms twined round one of the bed-posts, and her head thrown back, as if some one were pulling her backwards by her hair, which fell over her night-dress to the floor in thick, black masses. Her eyes were closed; her face was death-like, almost livid; and the cold dews of torture were rolling down from brow to chin. Her lips were moving convulsively, with now and then the appearance of an attempt at articulation, as if they were set in motion by an agony of inward prayer. Margaret, unable to move, watched her with anxious sympathy and fearful expectation. How long this lasted she could not tell, but it seemed a long time. At length Margaret rose, and longing to have some share in the struggle, however small, went softly, and stood behind her, shadowing her from a feeble ray of moonlight which, through a wind-rent cloud, had stolen into the room, and lay upon her upturned face. There she lifted up her heart in prayer. In a moment after the tension of Euphra's countenance relaxed a little; composure slowly followed; her head gradually rose, so that Margaret could see her face no longer; then, as gradually, drooped forward. Next her arms untwined themselves from the bed-post, and her hands clasped themselves together. She looked like one praying in the intense silence of absorbing devotion. Margaret stood still as a statue.

In speaking about it afterwards to Hugh, Margaret told him that she distinctly remembered hearing, while she stood, the measured steps of a policeman pass the house on the pavement below.

In a few minutes Euphra bowed her head yet lower, and then rose to her feet. She turned round towards Margaret, as if she knew she was there. To Margaret's astonishment, her eyes were wide open. She smiled a most child-like, peaceful, happy smile, and said:

|It is over, Margaret, all over at last. Thank you, with my whole heart. God has helped me.|

At that moment, the moon shone out full, and her face appeared in its light like the face of an angel. Margaret looked on her with awe. Fear, distress, and doubt had vanished, and she was already beautiful like the blessed. Margaret got a handkerchief, and wiped the cold damps from her face. Then she helped her into bed, where she fell asleep almost instantly, and slept like a child. Now and then she moaned; but when Margaret looked at her, she saw the smile still upon her countenance.

She woke weak and worn, but happy.

|I shall not trouble you to-day, Margaret, dear,| said she. |I shall not get up yet, but you will not need to watch me. A great change has passed upon me. I am free. I have overcome him. He may do as he pleases now. I do not care. I defy him. I got up last night in my sleep, but I remember all about it; and, although I was asleep, and felt powerless like a corpse, I resisted him, even when I thought he was dragging me away by bodily force. And I resisted him, till he left me alone. Thank God!|

It had been a terrible struggle, but she had overcome. Nor was this all: she would no more lead two lives, the waking and the sleeping. Her waking will and conscience had asserted themselves in her sleeping acts; and the memory of the somnambulist lived still in the waking woman. Hence her two lives were blended into one life; and she was no more two, but one. This indicated a mighty growth of individual being.

|I woke without terror,| she went on to say. |I always used to wake from such a sleep in an agony of unknown fear. I do not think I shall ever walk in my sleep again.|

Is not salvation the uniting of all our nature into one harmonious whole -- God first in us, ourselves last, and all in due order between? Something very much analogous to the change in Euphra takes place in a man when he first learns that his beliefs must become acts; that his religious life and his human life are one; that he must do the thing that he admires. The Ideal is the only absolute Real; and it must become the Real in the individual life as well, however impossible they may count it who never try it, or who do not trust in God to effect it, when they find themselves baffled in the attempt.

In the afternoon, Euphra fell asleep, and when she woke, seemed better. She said to Margaret:

|Can it be that it was all a dream, Margaret? I mean my association with that dreadful man. I feel as if it were only some horrid dream, and that I could never have had anything to do with him. I may have been out of my mind, you know, and have told you things which I believed firmly enough then, but which never really took place. It could not have been me, Margaret, could it?|

|Not your real, true, best self, dear.|

|I have been a dreadful creature, Margaret. But I feel that all that has melted away from me, and gone behind the sunset, which will for ever stand, in all its glory and loveliness, between me and it, an impassable rampart of defence.|

Her words sounded strange and excited, but her eye and her pulse were calm.

|How could he ever have had that hateful power over me?|

|Don't think any more about him, dear, but enjoy the rest God has given you.|

|I will, I will.|

At that moment, a maid came to the door, with Funkelstein's card for Miss Cameron.

|Very well,| said Margaret; |ask him to wait. I will tell Miss Cameron. She may wish to send him a message. You may go.|

She told Euphra that the count was in the house. Euphra showed no surprise, no fear, no annoyance.

|Will you see him for me, Margaret, if you don't mind; and tell him from me, that I defy him; that I do not hate him, only because I despise and forget him; that I challenge him to do his worst.|

She had forgotten all about the ring. But Margaret had not.

|I will,| said she, and left the room.

On her way down, she went into the drawing-room, and rang the bell.

|Send Mr. Irwan to me here, please. It is for Miss Cameron.|

The man went, but presently returned, saying that the butler had just stepped out.

|Very well. You will do just as well. When the gentleman leaves who is calling now, you must follow him. Take a cab, if necessary, and follow him everywhere, till you find where he stops for the night. Watch the place, and send me word where you are. But don't let him know. Put on plain clothes, please, as fast as you can.|

|Yes, Miss, directly.|

The servants all called Margaret, Miss.

She lingered yet a little, to give the man time. She was not at all satisfied with her plan, but she could think of nothing better. Happily, it was not necessary. Irwan had run as fast as his old legs would carry him to the Golden Staff. Hugh received the news with delight. His heart seemed to leap into his throat, and he felt just as he did, when, deer-stalking for the first time, he tried to take aim at a great red stag.

|I shall wait for him outside the door. We must have no noise in the house. He is a thief, or worse, Irwan.|

|Good gracious! And there's the plate all laid out for dinner on the sideboard!| exclaimed Irwan, and hurried off faster than he had come.

But Hugh was standing at the door long before Irwan got up to it. Had Margaret known who was watching outside, it would have been a wonderful relief to her.

She entered the dining-room, where the count stood impatient. He advanced quickly, acting on his expectation of Euphra, but seeing his mistake, stopped, and bowed politely. Margaret told him that Miss Cameron was ill, and gave him her message, word for word. The count turned pale with mortification and rage. He bit his lip, made no reply, and walked out into the hall, where Irwan stood with the handle of the door in his hand, impatient to open it. No sooner was he out of the house, than Hugh sprang upon him; but the count, who had been perfectly upon his guard, eluded him, and darted off down the street. Hugh pursued at full speed, mortified at his escape. He had no fear at first of overtaking him, for he had found few men his equals in speed and endurance; but he soon saw, to his dismay, that the count was increasing the distance between them, and feared that, by a sudden turn into some labyrinth, he might escape him altogether. They passed the Golden Staff at full speed, and at the next corner Hugh discovered what gave the count the advantage: it was his agility and recklessness in turning corners. But, like the sorcerer's impunity, they failed him at last; for, at the next turn, he ran full upon Falconer, who staggered back, while the count reeled and fell. Hugh was upon him in a moment. |Help!| roared the count, for a last chance from the sympathies of a gathering crowd.

|I've got him!| cried Hugh.

|Let the man alone,| growled a burly fellow in the crowd, with his fists clenched in his trowser-pockets.

|Let me have a look at him,| said Falconer, stooping over him. |Ah! I don't know him. That's as well for him. Let him up, Sutherland.|

The bystanders took Falconer for a detective, and did not seem inclined to interfere, all except the carman before mentioned. He came up, pushing the crowd right and left.

|Let the man alone,| said he, in a very offensive tone.

|I assure you,| said Falconer, |he's not worth your trouble; for -- |

|None o' your cursed jaw!| said the fellow, in a louder and deeper growl, approaching Falconer with a threatening mien.

|Well, I can't help it,| said Falconer, as if to himself.

|Sutherland, look after the count.|

|That I will,| said Hugh, confidently.

Falconer turned on the carman, who was just on the point of closing with him, preferring that mode of fighting; and saying only: |Defend yourself,| retreated a step. The man was good at his fists too, and, having failed in his first attempt, made the best use of them he could. But he had no chance with Falconer, whose coolness equalled his skill.

Meantime, the Bohemian had been watching his chance; and although the contest certainly did not last longer than one minute, found opportunity, in the middle of it, to wrench himself free from Hugh, trip him up, and dart off. The crowd gave way before him. He vanished so suddenly and completely, that it was evident he must have studied the neighbourhood from the retreat side of the question. With rat-like instinct, he had consulted the holes and corners in anticipation of the necessity of applying to them. Hugh got up, and, directed, or possibly misdirected by the bystanders, sped away in pursuit; but he could hear or see nothing of the fugitive.

At the end of the minute, the carman lay in the road.

|Look after him, somebody,| said Falconer.

|No fear of him, sir; he's used to it,| answered one of the bystanders, with the respect which Falconer's prowess claimed.

Falconer walked after Hugh, who soon returned, looking excessively mortified, and feeling very small indeed.

|Never mind, Sutherland,| said he. |The fellow is up to a trick or two; but we shall catch him yet. If it hadn't been for that big fool there -- but he's punished enough.|

|But what can we do next? He will not come here again.|

|Very likely not. Still he may not give up his attempts upon Miss Cameron. I almost wonder, seeing she is so impressible, that she can give no account of his whereabouts. But I presume clairvoyance depends on the presence of other qualifications as well. I should like to mesmerize her myself, and see whether she could not help us then.|

|Well, why not, if you have the power?|

|Because I have made up my mind not to superinduce any condition of whose laws I am so very partially informed. Besides, I consider it a condition of disease in which, as by sleeplessness for instance, the senses of the soul, if you will allow the expression, are, for its present state, rendered unnaturally acute. To induce such a condition, I dare not exercise a power which itself I do not understand.|

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