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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER XX. A NEW GUIDE.

David Elginbrod by George MacDonald

CHAPTER XX. A NEW GUIDE.

Das Denken ist nur ein Traum des Fühlens, ein erstorbenes Fühlen, ein blass-graues, schwaches Leben.

Thinking is only a dream of feeling; a dead feeling; a pale-grey, feeble life.

NOVALIS. -- Die Lehrlinge zu Sais.

For where's no courage, there's no ruth nor mone.

Faerie Queene: vi.7, 18.

ONE morning, as soon as she waked, Euphra said:

|Have I been still all the night, Margaret?|

|Quite still. Why do you ask?|

|Because I have had such a strange and vivid dream, that I feel as if I must have been to the place. It was a foolish question, though; because, of course, you would not have let me go.|

|I hope it did not trouble you much.|

|No, not much; for though I was with the count, I did not seem to be there in the body at all, only somehow near him, and seeing him. I can recall the place perfectly.|

|Do you think it really was the place he was in at the time?|

|I should not wonder. But now I feel so free, so far beyond him and all his power, that I don't mind where or when I see him. He cannot hurt me now.|

|Could you describe the place to Mr. Sutherland? It might help him to find the count.|

|That's a good idea. Will you send for him?|

|Yes, certainly. May I tell him for what?|

|By all means.|

Margaret wrote to Hugh at once, and sent the note by hand. He was at home when it arrived. He hurriedly answered it, and went to find Falconer. To his delight he was at home -- not out of bed, in fact.

|Read that.|

|Who is it from?|

|Miss Cameron's maid.|

|It does not look like a maid's production.|

|It is though. Will you come with me? You know London ten thousand times better than I do. I don't think we ought to lose a chance.|

|Certainly not. I will go with you. But perhaps she will not see me.|

|Oh! yes, she will, when I have told her about you.|

|It will be rather a trial to see a stranger.|

|A man cannot be a stranger with you ten minutes, if he only looks at you; -- still less a woman.|

Falconer looked pleased, and smiled.

|I am glad you think so. Let us go.|

When they arrived, Margaret came to them. Hugh told her that Falconer was his best friend, and one who knew London perhaps better than any other man in it. Margaret looked at him full in the face for a moment. Falconer smiled at the intensity of her still gaze. Margaret returned the smile, and said:

|I will ask Miss Cameron to see yet.|

|Thank you,| was all Falconer's reply; but the tone was more than speech.

After a little while, they were shown up to Euphra's room. She had wanted to sit up, but Margaret would not let her; so she was lying on her couch. When Falconer was presented to her, he took her hand, and held it for a moment. A kind of indescribable beam broke over his face, as if his spirit smiled and the smile shone through without moving one of his features as it passed. The tears stood in his eyes. To understand all this look, one would need to know his history as I do. He laid her hand gently on her bosom, and said: |God bless you!|

Euphra felt that God did bless her in the very words. She had been looking at Falconer all the time. It was only fifteen seconds or so; but the outcome of a life was crowded into Falconer's side of it; and the confidence of Euphra rose to meet the faithfulness of a man of God. -- What words those are! -- A man of God! Have I not written a revelation? Yes -- to him who can read it -- yes.

|I know enough of your story, Miss Cameron,| he said, |to understand without any preface what you choose to tell me.|

Euphra began at once:

|I dreamed last night that I found myself outside the street door. I did not know where I was going; but my feet seemed to know. They carried me, round two or three corners, into a wide, long street, which I think was Oxford-street. They carried me on into London, far beyond any quarter I knew. All I can tell further is, that I turned to the left beside a church, on the steeple of which stood what I took for a wandering ghost just lighted there; -- only I ought to tell you, that frequently in my dreams -- always in my peculiar dreams -- the more material and solid and ordinary things are, the more thin and ghostly they appear to me. Then I went on and on, turning left and right too many times for me to remember, till at last I came to a little, old-fashioned court, with two or three trees in it. I had to go up a few steps to enter it. I was not afraid, because I knew I was dreaming, and that my body was not there. It is a great relief to feel that sometimes; for it is often very much in the way. I opened a door, upon which the moon shone very bright, and walked up two flights of stairs into a back room. And there I found him, doing something at a table by candlelight. He had a sheet of paper before him; but what he was doing with it, I could not see. I tried hard; but it was of no use. The dream suddenly faded, and I awoke, and found Margaret. -- Then I knew I was safe,| she added, with a loving glance at her maid.

Falconer rose.

|I know the place you mean perfectly,| he said. |It is too peculiar to be mistaken. Last night, let me see, how did the moon shine? -- Yes. I shall be able to tell the very door, I think, or almost.|

|How kind of you not to laugh at me!|

|I might make a fool of myself if I laughed at any one. So I generally avoid it. We may as well get the good out of what we do not understand -- or at least try if there be any in it. Will you come, Sutherland?|

Hugh rose, and took his leave with Falconer.

|How pleased she seemed with you, Falconer!| said he, as they left the house.

|Yes, she touched me.|

|Won't you go and see her again?|

|No; there is no need, except she sends for me.|

|It would please her -- comfort her, I am sure.|

|She has got one of God's angels beside her, Sutherland. She doesn't want me.|

|What do you mean?|

|I mean that maid of hers.|

A pang -- of jealousy, was it? -- shot through Hugh's heart. How could he see -- what right had he to see anything in Margaret?

Hugh might have kept himself at peace, even if he had loved Margaret as much as she deserved, which would have been about ten times as much as he did. Is a man not to recognize an angel when he sees her, and to call her by her name? Had Hugh seen into the core of that grand heart -- what form sat there, and how -- he would have been at peace -- would almost have fallen down to do the man homage. He was silent.

|My dear fellow!| said Falconer, as if he divined his feeling -- for Falconer's power over men and women came all from sympathy with their spirits, and not their nerves -- |if you have any hold of that woman, do not lose it; for as sure as there's a sun in heaven, she is one of the winged ones. Don't I know a woman when I see her!|

He sighed with a kind of involuntary sigh, which yet did not seek to hide itself from Hugh.

|My dear boy,| he added, laying a stress on the word, | -- I am nearly twice your age -- don't be jealous of me.|

|Mr. Falconer,| said Hugh humbly, |forgive me. The feeling was involuntary; and if you have detected in it more than I was aware of, you are at least as likely to be right as I am. But you cannot think more highly of Margaret than I do.|

And yet Hugh did not know half the good of her then, that the reader does now.

|Well, we had better part now, and meet again at night.|

|What time shall I come to you?|

|Oh! about nine I think will do.|

So Hugh went home, and tried to turn his thoughts to his story; but Euphra, Falconer, Funkelstein, and Margaret persisted in sitting to him, the one after the other, instead of the heroes and heroines of his tale. He was compelled to lay it aside, and betake himself to a stroll and a pipe.

As he went down stairs, he met Miss Talbot.

|You're soon tired of home, Mr. Sutherland. You haven't been in above half an hour, and you're out again already.|

|Why, you see, Miss Talbot, I want a pipe very much.|

|Well, you ain't going to the public house to smoke it, are you?|

|No,| answered Hugh laughing. |But you know, Miss Talbot, you made it part of the agreement that I shouldn't smoke indoors. So I'm going to smoke in the street.|

|Now, think of being taken that way!| retorted Miss Talbot, with an injured air. |Why, that was before I knew anything about you. Go up stairs directly, and smoke your pipe; and when the room can't hold any more, you can open the windows. Your smoke won't do any harm, Mr. Sutherland. But I'm very sorry you quarrelled with Mrs. Appleditch. She's a hard woman, and over fond of her money and her drawing-room; and for those boys of hers -- the Lord have mercy on them, for she has none! But she's a true Christian for all that, and does a power of good among the poor people.|

|What does she give them, Miss Talbot?|

|Oh! -- she gives them -- hm-m -- tracts and things. You know,| she added, perceiving the weakness of her position, |people's souls should come first. And poor Mrs. Appleditch -- you see -- some folks is made stickier than others, and their money sticks to them, somehow, that they can't part with it -- poor woman!|

To this Hugh had no answer at hand; for though Miss Talbot's logic was more than questionable, her charity was perfectly sound; and Hugh felt that he had not been forbearing enough with the mother of the future pastors. So he went back to his room, lighted his pipe, and smoked till he fell asleep over a small volume of morbid modern divinity, which Miss Talbot had lent him. I do not mention the name of the book, lest some of my acquaintance should abuse me, and others it, more than either deserves. Hugh, however, found the best refuge from the diseased self-consciousness which it endeavoured to rouse, and which is a kind of spiritual somnambulism, in an hour of God's good sleep, into a means of which the book was temporarily elevated. When he woke he found himself greatly refreshed by the influence it had exercised upon him.

It was now the hour for the daily pretence of going to dine. So he went out. But all he had was some bread, which he ate as he walked about. Loitering here, and trifling there, passing five minutes over a volume on every bookstall in Holborn, and comparing the shapes of the meerschaums in every tobacconist's window, time ambled gently along with him; and it struck nine just as he found himself at Falconer's door.

|You are ready, then?| said Falconer.

|Quite.|

|Will you take anything before you go? I think we had better have some supper first. It is early for our project.|

This was a welcome proposal to Hugh. Cold meat and ale were excellent preparatives for what might be required of him; for a tendency to collapse in a certain region, called by courtesy the chest, is not favourable to deeds of valour. By the time he had spent ten minutes in the discharge of the agreeable duty suggested, he felt himself ready for anything that might fall to his lot.

The friends set out together; and, under the guidance of the two foremost bumps upon Falconer's forehead, soon arrived at the place he judged to be that indicated by Euphra. It was very different from the place Hugh had pictured to himself. Yet in everything it corresponded to her description.

|Are we not great fools, Sutherland, to set out on such a chase, with the dream of a sick girl for our only guide?|

|I am sure you don't think so, else you would not have gone.|

|I think we can afford the small risk to our reputation involved in the chase of this same wild-goose. There is enough of strange testimony about things of the sort to justify us in attending to the hint. Besides, if we neglected it, it would be mortifying to find out some day, perhaps a hundred years after this, that it was a true hint. It is altogether different from giving ourselves up to the pursuit of such things. -- But this ought to be the house,| he added, going up to one that had a rather more respectable look than the rest.

He knocked at the door. An elderly woman half opened it and looked at them suspiciously.

|Will you take my card to the foreign gentleman who is lodging with you, and say I am happy to wait upon him?| said Falconer.

She glanced at him again, and turned inwards, hesitating whether to leave the door half-open or not. Falconer stood so close to it, however, that she was afraid to shut it in his face.

|Now, Sutherland, follow me,| whispered Falconer, as soon as the woman had disappeared on the stair.

Hugh followed behind the moving tower of his friend, who strode with long, noiseless strides till he reached the stair. That he took three steps at a time. They went up two flights, and reached the top just as the woman was laying her hand on the lock of the back-room door. She turned and faced them.

|Speak one word,| said Falconer, in a hissing whisper, |and -- |

He completed the sentence by an awfully threatening gesture. She drew back in terror, and yielded her place at the door.

|Come in,| bawled some one, in second answer to the knock she had already given.

|It is he!| said Hugh, trembling with excitement.

|Hush!| said Falconer, and went in.

Hugh followed. He know the back of the count at once. He was seated at a table, apparently writing; but, going nearer, they saw that he was drawing. A single closer glance showed them the portrait of Euphra growing under his hand. In order to intensify his will and concentrate it upon her, he was drawing her portrait from memory. But at the moment they caught sight of it, the wretch, aware of a hostile presence, sprang to his feet, and reached the chimney-piece at one bound, whence he caught up a sword.

|Take care, Falconer,| cried Hugh; |that weapon is poisoned. He is no every-day villain you have to deal with.|

He remembered the cat.

Funkelstein made a sudden lunge at Hugh, his face pale with hatred and anger. But a blow from Falconer's huge fist, travelling faster than the point of his weapon, stretched him on the floor. Such was Falconer's impetus, that it hurled both him and the table across the fallen villain. Falconer was up in a moment. Not so Funkelstein. There was plenty of time for Hugh to secure the rapier, and for Falconer to secure its owner, before he came to himself.

|Where's my ring?| said Hugh, the moment he opened his eyes.

|Gentlemen, I protest,| began Funkelstein, in a voice upon which the cord that bound his wrists had an evident influence.

|No chaff!| said Falconer. |We've got all our feathers. Hand over the two rings, or be the security for them yourself.|

|What witness have you against me?|

|The best of witnesses -- Miss Cameron.|

|And me,| added Hugh.

|Gentlemen, I am very sorry. I yielded to temptation. I meant to restore the diamond after the joke had been played out, but I was forced to part with it.|

|The joke is played out, you see,| said Falconer. |So you had better produce the other bauble you stole at the same time.|

|I have not got it.|

|Come, come, that's too much. Nobody would give you more than five shillings for it. And you knew what it was worth when you took it. Sutherland, you stand over him while I search the room. This portrait may as well be put out of the way first.|

As he spoke, Falconer tore the portrait and threw it into the fire. He then turned to a cupboard in the room. Whether it was that Funkelstein feared further revelations, I do not know, but he quailed.

|I have not got it,| he repeated, however.

|You lie,| answered Falconer.

|I would give it you if I could.|

|You shall.|

The Bohemian looked contemptible enough now, despite the handsomeness of his features. It needed freedom, and the absence of any urgency, to enable him to personate a gentleman. Given those conditions, he succeeded. But as soon as he was disturbed, the gloss vanished, and the true nature came out, that of a ruffian and a sneak. He quite quivered at the look with which Falconer turned again to the cupboard.

|Stop,| he cried; |here it is.|

And muttering what sounded like curses, he pulled out of his bosom the ring, suspended from his neck

|Sutherland,| said Falconer, taking the ring, |secure that rapier, and be careful with it. We will have its point tested. Meantime,| -- here he turned again to his prisoner -- |I give you warning that the moment I leave this house, I go to Scotland Yard. -- Do you know the place? I there recommend the police to look after you, and they will mind what I say. If you leave London, a message will be sent, wherever you go, that you had better be watched. My advice to you is, to stay where you are as long as you can. I shall meet you again.|

They left him on the floor, to the care of his landlady, whom they found outside the room, speechless with terror.

As soon as they were in the square, on which the moon was now shining, as it had shone in Euphra's dream the night before, Falconer gave the ring to Hugh.

|Take it to a jeweller's, Sutherland, and get it cleaned, before you give it to Miss Cameron.|

|I will,| answered Hugh, and added, |I don't know how to thank you.|

|Then don't,| said Falconer, with a smile.

When they reached the end of the street, he turned, and bade Hugh good night.

|Take care of that cowardly thing. It may be as you say.|

Hugh turned towards home. Falconer dived into a court, and was out of sight in a moment.

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