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Image Map : Christian Books : CHAPTER LIV. OF AGE.

Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald


THERE were no rejoicings upon Gibbie's attainment of his twenty-first year. His guardian, believing he alone had acquainted himself with the date, and desiring in his wisdom to avoid giving him a feeling of importance, made no allusion to the fact, as would have been most natural, when they met at breakfast on the morning of the day. But, urged thereto by Donal, Gibbie had learned the date for himself, and finding nothing was said, fingered to Mrs. Sclater, |This is my birthday.|

|I wish you many happy returns,| she answered, with kind empressement. |How old are you to-day?|

|Twenty-one,| he answered -- by holding up all his fingers twice and then a forefinger.

She looked struck, and glanced at her husband, who thereupon, in his turn, gave utterance to the usual formula of goodwill, and said no more. Seeing he was about to leave the table, Gibbie, claiming his attention, spelled on his fingers, very slowly, for Mr. Sclater was slow at following this mode of communication:

|If you please, sir, I want to be put in possession of my property as soon as possible.|

|All in good time, Sir Gilbert,| answered the minister, with a superior smile, for he clung with hard reluctance to the last vestige of his power.

|But what is good time?| spelled Gibbie with a smile, which, none the less that it was of genuine friendliness, indicated there might be difference of opinion on the point.

|Oh! we shall see,| returned the minister coolly. |These are not things to be done in a hurry,| he added, as if he had been guardian to twenty wards in chancery before, |We'll see in a few days what Mr. Torrie proposes.|

|But I want my money at once,| insisted Gibbie. |I have been waiting for it, and now it is time, and why should I wait still?|

|To learn patience, if for no other reason, Sir Gilbert,| answered the minister, with a hard laugh, meant to be jocular. |But indeed such affairs cannot be managed in a moment. You will have plenty of time to make a good use of your money, if you should have to wait another year or two.|

So saying he pushed back his plate and cup, a trick he had, and rose from the table.

|When will you see Mr. Torrie?| asked Gibbie, rising too, and working his telegraph with greater rapidity than before.

|By and by,| answered Mr. Sclater, and walked towards the door. But Gibbie got between him and it.

|Will you go with me to Mr. Torrie to-day?| he asked.

The minister shook his head. Gibbie withdrew, seeming a little disappointed. Mr. Sclater left the room.

|You don't understand business, Gilbert,| said Mrs. Sclater.

Gibbie smiled, got his writing-case, and sitting down at the table, wrote as follows: --

|Dear Mr. Sclater, -- As you have never failed in your part, how can you wish me to fail in mine? I am now the one accountable for this money, which surely has been idle long enough, and if I leave it still unused, I shall be doing wrong, and there are things I have to do with it which ought to be set about immediately. I am sorry to seem importunate, but if by twelve o'clock you have not gone with me to Mr. Torrie, I will go to Messrs. Hope & Waver, who will tell me what I ought to do next, in order to be put in possession. It makes me unhappy to write like this, but I am not a child any longer, and having a man's work to do, I cannot consent to be treated as a child. I will do as I say. I am, dear Mr. Sclater, your affectionate ward, Gilbert Galbraith.|

He took the letter to the study, and having given it to Mr. Sclater, withdrew. The minister might have known by this time with what sort of a youth he had to deal! He came down instantly, put the best face on it he could, said that if Sir Gilbert was so eager to take up the burden, he was ready enough to cast it off, and they would go at once to Mr. Torrie.

With the lawyer, Gibbie insisted on understanding everything, and that all should be legally arranged as speedily as possible. Mr. Torrie saw that, if he did not make things plain, or gave the least cause for doubt, the youth would most likely apply elsewhere for advice, and therefore took trouble to set the various points, both as to the property and the proceedings necessary, before him in the clearest manner.

|Thank you,| said Gibbie, through Mr. Sclater. |Please remember I am more accountable for this money than you, and am compelled to understand.| -- Janet's repeated exhortations on the necessity of sending for the serpent to take care of the dove, had not been lost upon him.

The lawyer being then quite ready to make him an advance of money, they went with him to the bank, where he wrote his name, and received a cheque book. As they left the bank, he asked the minister whether he would allow him to keep his place in his house till the next session, and was almost startled at finding how his manner to him was changed. He assured Sir Gilbert, with a deference and respect both painful and amusing, that he hoped he would always regard his house as one home, however many besides he might now choose to have.

So now at last Gibbie was free to set about realizing a long-cherished scheme.

The repairs upon the Auld Hoose o' Galbraith were now nearly finished. In consequence of them, some of the tenants had had to leave, and Gibbie now gave them all notice to quit at their earliest convenience, taking care, however, to see them provided with fresh quarters, towards which he could himself do not a little, for several of the houses in the neighbourhood had been bought for him at the same time with the old mansion. As soon as it was empty, he set more men to work, and as its internal arrangements had never been altered, speedily, out of squalid neglect, caused not a little of old stateliness to reappear. He next proceeded to furnish at his leisure certain of the rooms, chiefly from the accumulations of his friend Mistress Murkison. By the time he had finished, his usual day for going home had arrived: while Janet lived, the cottage on Glashgar was home. Just as he was leaving, the minister told him that Glashruach was his. Mrs. Sclater was present, and read in his eyes what induced her instantly to make the remark: |How could that man deprive his daughter of the property he had to take her mother's name to get!|

|He had misfortunes,| indicated Gibbie, |and could not help it, I suppose.|

|Yes indeed!| she returned, | -- misfortunes so great that they amounted to little less than swindling. I wonder how many he has brought to grief besides himself! If he had Glashruach once more he would begin it all over again.|

|Then I'll give it to Ginevra,| said Gibbie.

|And let her father coax her out of it, and do another world of mischief with it!| she rejoined.

Gibbie was silent. Mrs. Sclater was right! To give is not always to bless. He must think of some way. With plenty to occupy his powers of devising he set out.

He would gladly have seen Ginevra before he left, but had no chance. He had gone to the North church every Sunday for a long time now, neither for love of Fergus, nor dislike to Mr. Sclater, but for the sake of seeing his lost friend: had he not lost her when she turned from Donal to Fergus? Did she not forsake him too when she forsook his Donal? His heart would rise into his throat at the thought, but only for a moment: he never pitied himself. Now and then he had from her a sweet sad smile, but no sign that he might go and see her. Whether he was to see Donal when he reached Daurside, he could not tell; he had heard nothing of him since he went; his mother never wrote letters.

|Na, na; I canna,| she would say. |It wad tak a' the pith oot o' me to vreet letters. A' 'at I hae to say I sen' the up-road; it's sure to win hame ear' or late.|

Notwithstanding his new power, it was hardly, therefore, with his usual elation, that he took his seat on the coach. But his reception was the same as ever. At his mother's persuasion, Donal, he found, instead of betaking himself again to bodily labours as he had purposed, had accepted a situation as tutor offered him by one of the professors. He had told his mother all his trouble.

|He'll be a' the better for 't i' the en',| she said, with a smile of the deepest sympathy, |though, bein' my ain, I canna help bein' wae for 'im. But the Lord was i' the airthquak, an' the fire, an' the win' that rave the rocks, though the prophet couldna see 'im. Donal 'ill come oot o' this wi' mair room in's hert an' mair licht in's speerit.|

Gibbie took his slate from the crap o' the wa' and wrote. |If money could do anything for him, I have plenty now.|

|I ken yer hert, my bairn,| replied Janet; 'but na; siller's but a deid horse for onything 'at smacks o' salvation. Na; the puir fallow maun warstle oot o' the thicket o' deid roses as best he can -- sair scrattit, nae doobt. Eh! it's a fearfu' an' won'erfu' thing that drawin' o' hert to hert, an' syne a great snap, an' a stert back, an' there's miles atween them! The Lord alane kens the boddom o' 't; but I'm thinkin' there's mair intill't, an' a heap mair to come oot o' 't ere a' be dune, than we hae ony guiss at.|

Gibbie told her that Glashruach was his. Then first the extent of his wealth seemed to strike his old mother.

|Eh! ye'll be the laird, wull ye, than? Eh, sirs! To think o' this hoose an' a' bein' wee Gibbie's! Weel, it dings a'. The w'ys o' the Lord are to be thoucht upon! He made Dawvid a king, an' Gibbie he's made the laird! Blest be his name.|

|They tell me the mountain is mine,| Gibbie wrote: |your husband shall be laird of Glashgar if he likes.|

|Na, na,| said Janet, with a loving look. |He's ower auld for that. He micht na dee sae easy for't. -- Eh! please the Lord, I wad fain gang wi' him. -- An' what better wad Robert be to be laird? We pey nae rent as 'tis, an' he has as mony sheep to lo'e as he can weel ken ane frae the ither, noo 'at he's growin' auld, I ken naething 'at he lacks, but Gibbie to gang wi' 'im aboot the hill. A neebour's laddie comes an' gangs, to help him, but, eh, says Robert, he's no Gibbie! -- But gien Glashruach be yer ain, my bonnie man, ye maun gang doon there this verra nicht, and gie a luik to the burn; for the last time I was there, I thoucht it was creepin' in aneth the bank some fearsome like for what's left o' the auld hoose, an' the suner it's luikit efter maybe the better. Eh, Sir Gibbie, but ye sud merry the bonnie leddy, an' tak her back till her ain hoose.|

Gibbie gave a great sigh to think of the girl that loved the hill and the heather and the burns, shut up in the city, and every Sunday going to the great church -- with which in Gibbie's mind was associated no sound of glad tidings. To him Glashgar was full of God; the North church or Mr. Sclater's church -- well, he had tried hard, but had not succeeded in discovering temple-signs about either.

The next day he sent to the city for an architect; and within a week masons and quarrymen were at work, some on the hill blasting blue boulders and red granite, others roughly shaping the stones, and others laying the foundation of a huge facing and buttressing wall, which was to slope up from the bed of the Glashburn fifty feet to the foot of the castle, there to culminate in a narrow terrace with a parapet. Others again were clearing away what of the ruins stuck to the old house, in order to leave it, as much as might be, in its original form. There was no space left for rebuilding, neither was there any between the two burns for adding afresh. The channel of the second remained dry, the landslip continuing to choke it, and the stream to fall into the Glashburn. But Gibbie would not consent that the burn Ginevra had loved should sing no more as she had heard it sing. Her chamber was gone, and could not be restored, but another chamber should be built for her, beneath whose window it should again run: when she was married to Fergus, and her father could not touch it, the place should be hers. More masons were gathered, and foundations blasted in the steep rock that formed the other bank of the burn. The main point in the building was to be a room for Ginevra. He planned it himself -- with a windowed turret projecting from the wall, making a recess in the room, and overhanging the stream. The turret he carried a story higher than the wall, and in the wall placed a stair leading to its top, whence, over the roof of the ancient part of the house, might be seen the great Glashgar, and its streams coming down from heaven, and singing as they came. Then from the middle of the first stair in the old house, the wall, a yard and a half thick, having been cut through, a solid stone bridge, with a pointed arch, was to lead across the burn to a like landing in the new house -- a close passage, with an oriel window on each side, looking up and down the stream, and a steep roof. And while these works were going on below, two masons, high on the mountain, were adding to the cottage a warm bedroom for Janet and Robert.

The architect was an honest man, and kept Gibbie's secret, so that, although he was constantly about the place, nothing disturbed the general belief that Glashruach had been bought, and was being made habitable, by a certain magnate of the county adjoining.

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