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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAlec Forbes Of Howglen - Chapter 90
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Alec Forbes Of Howglen - Chapter 90 Post by :flashweb Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :2780

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Alec Forbes Of Howglen - Chapter 90

CHAPTER XC

It was a dreary wintry summer to all at Howglen. Why should the ripe corn wave deep-dyed in the gold of the sunbeams, when Alec lay frozen in the fields of ice, or sweeping about under them like a broken sea-weed in the waters so cold, so mournful? Yet the work of the world must go on. The corn must be reaped. Things must be bought and sold. Even the mourners must eat and drink. The stains which the day had gathered must be washed from the brow of the morning; and the dust to which Alec had gone down must be swept from the chair in which he had been wont to sit. So things did go on�-of themselves as it were, for no one cared much about them, although it was the finest harvest that year that Howglen had ever borne. It had begun at length to appear that the old labour had not been cast into a dead grave, but into a living soil, like that of which Sir Philip Sidney says in his sixty-fifth psalm:

"Each clodd relenteth at thy dressing,"

as if it were a human soul that had bethought itself and began to bring forth fruit.�-This might be the beginning of good things. But what did it matter?

Annie grew paler, but relaxed not a single effort to fill her place. She told her poor friends that she had no money now, and could not help them; but most were nearly as glad to see her as before; while one of them who had never liked receiving alms from a girl in such a lowly position, as well as some who had always taken them thankfully, loved her better when she had nothing to give.

She renewed her acquaintance with Peter Whaup, the blacksmith, through his wife, who was ill, and received her visits gladly.

"For," she said, "she's a fine douce lass, and speyks to ye as gin ye war ither fowk, and no as gin she kent a'thing, and cam to tell ye the muckle half o' 't."

I wonder how much her friends understood of what she read to them? She did not confine herself to the Bible, which indeed she was a little shy of reading except they wanted it, but read anything that pleased herself, never doubting that "ither fowk" could enjoy what she enjoyed. She even tried the _Paradise Lost upon Mrs Whaup, as she had tried it long ago upon Tibbie Dyster; and Mrs Whaup never seemed tired of listening to it. I daresay she understood about as much of it as poets do of the celestial harmonies ever toning around them.

And Peter Whaup was once known, when more than half drunk, to stop his swearing in mid-volley, simply because he had caught a glimpse of Annie at the other end of the street.

So the maiden grew in favour. Her beauty, both inward and outward, was that of the twilight, of a morning cloudy with high clouds, or of a silvery sea: it was a spiritual beauty for the most part. And her sorrow gave a quiet grace to her demeanour, peacefully ripening it into what is loveliest in ladyhood. She always looked like one waiting�-sometimes like one listening, as she waited, to "melodies unheard."

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CHAPTER XCIOne night, in the end of October, James Dow was walking by the side of his cart along a lonely road, through a peat-moss, on his way to the nearest sea-port for a load of coals. The moon was high and full. He was approaching a solitary milestone in the midst of the moss. It was the loneliest place. Low swells of peat-ground, the burial places of old forests, rolled away on every side, with, here and there, patches of the white-bearded canna-down, or cotton-grass, glimmering doubtfully as the Wind woke and turned himself on the wide space he
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CHAPTER LXXXIXMr Cupples returned to his work, for the catalogue had to be printed. The weeks and months passed on, and the time drew nigh when it would be no folly to watch the mail-coach in its pride of scarlet and gold, as possibly bearing the welcome letter announcing Alec's return. At length, one morning, Mrs Forbes said: "We may look for him every day now, Annie." She did not know with what a tender echo her words went roaming about in Annie's bosom, awaking a thousand thought-birds in the twilight land of memory, which had tucked their heads under their
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