From this time, Margaret waited upon Euphra, as if she had been her own maid. Nor had Mrs. Elton any cause of complaint, for Margaret was always at hand when she was wanted. Indeed, her mistress was full of her praises. Euphra said little.
Many and long were the conversations between the two girls, when all but themselves were asleep. Sometimes Harry made one of the company; but they could always send him away when they wished to be alone. And now the teaching for which Euphra had longed, sprang in a fountain at her own door. It had been nigh her long, and she had not known it, for its hour had not come. Now she drank as only the thirsty drink, -- as they drink whose very souls are fainting within them for drought.
But how did Margaret embody her lessons?
The second night, she came to Euphra's room, and said:
"Shall I tell you about my father to-night? Are, you able?"
Euphra was delighted. It was what she had been hoping for all day.
"Do tell me. I long to hear about him."
So they sat down; and Margaret began to talk about her childhood; the cottage she lived in; the fir-wood all around it; the work she used to do; -- her side, in short, of the story which, in the commencement of this book, I have partly related from Hugh's side. Summer and winter, spring-time and harvest, storm and sunshine, all came into the tale. Her mother came into it often; and often too, though not so often, the grand form of her father appeared, remained for a little while, and then passed away. Every time Euphra saw him thus in the mirror of Margaret's memory, she saw him more clearly than before: she felt as if, soon, she should know him quite well. Sometimes she asked a question or two; but generally she allowed Margaret's words to flow unchecked; for she painted her pictures better when the colours did not dry between. They talked on, or rather, Margaret talked and Euphra listened, far into the night. At length, Margaret stopped suddenly, for she became aware that a long time had passed. Looking at the clock on the chimney-piece, she said:
"I have done wrong to keep you up so late. Come -- I must get you to bed. You are an invalid, you know, and I am your nurse as well as your maid."
"You will come to-morrow night, then?"
"Yes, I will."
"Then I will go to bed like a good child."
Margaret undressed her, and left her to the healing of sleep.
The next night she spoke again of her father, and what he taught her. Euphra had thought much about him; and at every fresh touch which the story gave to the portrait, she knew him better; till at last, even when circumstances not mentioned before came up, she seemed to have known them from the beginning.
"What was your father like, Margaret?"
Margaret described him very nearly as I have done, from Hugh's account, in the former part of the story. Euphra said:
"Ah! yes. That is almost exactly as I had fancied him. Is it not strange?"
"It is very natural, I think," answered Margaret.
"I seem now to have known him for years."
But what is most worthy of record is, that ever as the picture of David grew on the vision of Euphra, the idea of God was growing unawares upon her inward sight. She was learning more and more about God all the time. The sight of human excellence awoke a faint Ideal of the divine perfection. Faith came of itself, and abode, and grew; for it needs but a vision of the Divine, and faith in God is straightway born in the soul that beholds it. Thus, faith and sight are one. The being of her father in heaven was no more strange and far off from her, when she had seen such a father on earth as Margaret's was. It was not alone David's faith that begot hers, but the man himself was a faith-begetting presence. He was the evidence of God with them. -- Thus he, being dead, yet spoke, and the departed man was a present power.
Euphra began to read the story of the Gospel. So did Harry. They found much on which to desire enlightenment; and they always applied to Margaret for the light they needed. It was long before she ventured to say I think. She always said:
"My father used to say -- " or
"I think my father would have said -- "
It was not until Euphra was in great trouble some time after this, and required the immediate consolation of personal testimony, that Margaret spoke as from herself; and then she spoke with positive assurance of faith. She did not then even say I think, but, I am sure; I know; I have seen.
Many interviews of this sort did not take place between them before Euphra, in her turn, began to confide her history to Margaret.
It was a strangely different one -- full of outward event and physical trouble; but, till it approached the last stages, wonderfully barren as to inward production or development. It was a history of Euphra's circumstances and peculiarities, not of Euphra herself. Till of late, she had scarcely had any history. Margaret's, on the contrary, was a true history; for, with much of the monotonous in circumstance, it described individual growth, and the change of progress. Where there is no change there can be no history; and as all change is either growth or decay, all history must describe progress or retrogression. The former had now begun for Euphra as well; and it was one proof of it that she told Margaret all I have already recorded for my readers, at least as far as it bore against herself. How much more she told her I am unable to say; but after she had told it, Euphra was still more humble towards Margaret, and Margaret more tender, more full of service, if possible, and more devoted to Euphra.