What's Mine's Mind - vol.1

Home - George MacDonald - What's Mine's Mind - vol.1

Prev | Next | Contents


Ten peaceful days they spent in the cave-house. It was cold outside, but the clear air of the hill-top was delicious, and inside it was warm and dry. There were plenty of books, and Mercy never felt the time a moment too long. The mother talked freely of her sons, and of their father, of the history of the clan, of her own girlhood, and of the hopes and intentions of her sons.

"Will you go with him, Mercy?" she asked, laying her hand on hers.

"I would rather be his servant," answered Mercy, "than remain at home: there is no life there!"

"There is life wherever there is the will to live--that is, to do the thing that is given one to do," said the mother.

In writing she told Alister nothing of what had happened: he might hurry home without completing his business! Undisturbed by fresh anxiety, he settled everything, parted with his property to an old friend of the family, and received what would suffice for his further intents. He also chartered a vessel to take them over the sea, and to save weariness and expense, arranged for it to go northward as far as a certain bay on the coast, and there take the clan on board.

When at length he reached home, Nancy informed him that his mother was at the hill-house, and begged he would go there to her. He was a good deal perplexed: she very seldom went there, and had never before gone for the night! and it was so early in the season! He set out immediately.

It was twilight when he reached the top of the hill, and no light shone from the little windows of the tomb.

That day Mercy had been amusing her protectress with imitations, in which kind she had some gift, of certain of her London acquaintance: when the mother heard her son's approaching step, a thought came to her.

"Here! Quick!" she said; "Put on my cap and shawl, and sit in this chair. I will go into the bedroom. Then do as you like."

When the chief entered, he saw the form of his mother, as he thought, bending over the peat-fire, which had sunk rather low: in his imagination he saw again the form of his uncle as on that night in the low moonlight. She did not move, did not even look up. He stood still for a moment; a strange feeling possessed him of something not being as it ought to be. But he recovered himself with an effort, and kneeling beside her, put his arms round her--not a little frightened at her continued silence.

"What is the matter, mother dear?" he said. "Why have you come up to this lonely place?"

When first Mercy felt his arms, she could not have spoken if she would--her heart seemed to grow too large for her body. But in a moment or two she controlled herself, and was able to say--sufficiently in his mother's tone and manner to keep up the initiated misconception:

"They put me out of the house, Alister."

"Put you out of the house!" he returned, like one hearing and talking in a dream. "Who dared interfere with you, mother? Am I losing my senses? I seem not to understand my own words!"

"Mr. Palmer."

"Mr. Palmer! Was it to him I sold the land in London? What could he have to do with you, mother? How did they allow him to come near the house in my absence? Oh, I see! He came and worried you so about Mercy that you were glad to take refuge from him up here!--I understand now!"

He ended in a tone of great relief: he felt as if he had just recovered his senses.

"No, that was not it. But we are going so soon, there would have been no good in fighting it out. We ARE going soon, are we not?"

"Indeed we are, please God!" replied the chief, who had relapsed into bewilderment.

"That is well--for you more than anybody. Would you believe it--the worthless girl vows she will never leave her mother's house!"

"Ah, mother, YOU never heard her say so! I know Mercy better than that! She will leave it when I say COME. But that won't be now. I must wait, and come and fetch her when she is of age."

"She is not worthy of you."

"She is worthy of me if I were twenty times worthier! Mother, mother! What has turned you against us again? It is not like you to change about so! I cannot bear to find you changeable! I should have sworn you were just the one to understand her perfectly! I cannot bear you should let unworthy reasons prejudice you against anyone!--If you say a word more against her, I will go and sit outside with the moon. She is not up yet, but she will be presently --and though she is rather old and silly, I shall find her much better company than you, mother dear!"

He spoke playfully, but was grievously puzzled.

"To whom are you talking, Alister?--yourself or a ghost?"

Alister started up, and saw his mother coming from the bedroom with a candle in her hand! He stood stupefied. He looked again at the seated figure, still bending over the fire. Who was it if not his mother?

With a wild burst of almost hysteric laughter, Mercy sprang to her feet, and threw herself in his arms. It was not the less a new bewilderment that it was an unspeakably delightful change from the last. Was he awake or dreaming? Was the dream of his boyhood come true? or was he dreaming it on in manhood? It was come true! The princess was arrived! She was here in his cave to be his own!

A great calm and a boundless hope filled the heart of Alister. The night was far advanced when he left them to go home. Nor did he find his way home, but wandered all night about the tomb, making long rounds and still returning like an angel sent to hover and watch until the morning. When he astonished them by entering as they sat at breakfast, and told them how he had passed the night, it thrilled Mercy's heart to know that, while she slept and was dreaming about him, he was awake and thinking about her.

"What is only dreaming in me, is thinking in you, Alister!" she said.

"I was thinking," returned Alister, "that as you did not know I was watching you, so, when we feel as if God were nowhere, he is watching over us with an eternal consciousness, above and beyond our every hope and fear, untouched by the varying faith and fluctuating moods of his children."

After breakfast he went to see the clergyman of the parish, who lived some miles away; the result of which visit was that in a few days they were married. First, however, he went once more to the New House, desiring to tell Mr. Palmer what had been and was about to be done. He refused to see him, and would not allow his wife or Christina to go to him.

The wedding was solemnized at noon within the ruined walls of the old castle. The withered remnant of the clan, with pipes playing, guns firing, and shouts of celebration, marched to the cave-house to fetch thence the bride. When the ceremony was over, a feast was ready for all in the barn, and much dancing followed.

When evening came, with a half-moon hanging faint in the limpid blue, and the stars looking large through the mist of ungathered tears--those of nature, not the lovers; with a wind like the breath of a sleeping child, sweet and soft, and full of dreams of summer; the mountains and hills asleep around them like a flock of day- wearied things, and haunted by the angels of Rob's visions--the lovers, taking leave only of the mother, stole away to walk through the heavenly sapphire of the still night, up the hills and over the rushing streams of the spring, to the cave of their rest--no ill omen but lovely symbol to such as could see in the tomb the porch of paradise. Where should true lovers make their bed but on the threshold of eternity!

Prev | Next | Contents