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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Flight Of The Shadow - Chapter 16. Fault And No Fault
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The Flight Of The Shadow - Chapter 16. Fault And No Fault Post by :mohausa Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :3085

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The Flight Of The Shadow - Chapter 16. Fault And No Fault

CHAPTER XVI. FAULT AND NO FAULT

The next day I kept the house till the evening, and then went walking in the garden in the twilight. Between the dark alleys and the open wilderness I flitted and wandered, alternating gloom and gleam outside me, even as they chased one another within me.

In the wilderness I looked up--and there was John! He stood outside the fence, just as I had seen him the night before, only now there was no aureole about his head: the moon had not yet reached the horizon.

My first feeling was anger: he had broken our agreement! I did not reflect that there was such a thing as breaking a law, or even a promise, and being blameless. He leaped the fence, and clearing every bush like a deer, came straight toward me. It was no use trying to escape him. I turned my back, and stood. He stopped close behind me, a yard or two away.

"Will you not speak to me?" he said. "It is not my fault I am come."

"Whose fault then, pray?" I rejoined, with difficulty keeping my position. "Is it mine?"

"My mother's," he answered.

I turned and looked him in the eyes, through the dusk saw that he was troubled, ran to him, and put my arms about him.

"She has been spying," he said, as soon as he could speak. "She will part us at any risk, if she can. She is having us watched this very moment, most likely. She may be watching us herself. She is a terrible woman when she is for or against anything. Literally, I do not know what she would not do to get her own way. She lives for her own way. The loss of it would be to her as the loss of her soul. She will lose it this time though! She will fail this time--if she never did before!"

"Well," I returned, nowise inclined to take her part, "I hope she will fail! What does she say?"

"She says she would rather go to her grave than see me your husband."

"Why?"

"Your family seems objectionable to her."

"What is there against it?"

"Nothing that I know."

"What is there against my uncle? Is there anything against Martha Moon?" I was indignant at the idea of a whisper against either.

"What have _I done?" I went on. "We are all of the family I know: what is it?"

"I don't think she has had time to invent anything yet; but she pretends there is something, and says if I don't give you up, if I don't swear never to look at you again, she will tell it."

"What did you answer her?"

"I said no power on earth should make me give you up. Whatever she knew, she could know nothing against _you_, and I was as ready to go to my grave as she was. 'Mother,' I said, 'you may tell my determination by your own! Whether I marry her or not, you and I part company the day I come of age; and if you speak word or do deed against one of her family, my lawyer shall look strictly into your accounts as my guardian.' You see I knew where to touch her!"

"It is dreadful you should have to speak like that to your mother!"

"It is; but you would feel to her just as I do if you knew all--though you wouldn't speak so roughly, I know."

"Can you guess what she has in her mind?"

"Not in the least. She will pretend anything. It is enough that she is determined to part us. How, she cares nothing, so she succeed."

"But she cannot!"

"It rests with you."

"How with me?"

"It will be war to the knife between her and me. If she succeed, it must be with you. I will do anything to foil her except lie."

"What if she should make you see it your duty to give me up?"

"What if there were no difference between right and wrong! We're as good as married!"

"Yes, of course; but I cannot quite promise, you know, until I hear what my uncle will say."

"If your uncle is half so good a man as you have made me think him, he will do what he can on our side. He loves what is fair; and what can be fairer than that those who love each other should marry?"

I knew my uncle would not willingly interfere with my happiness, and for myself, I should never marry another than John Day--that was a thing of course: had he not kissed me? But the best of lovers had been parted, and that which had been might be again, though I could not see how! It _was good, nevertheless, to hear John talk! It was the right way for a lover to talk! Still, he had no supremacy over what was to be!

"Some would say it cannot be so great a matter to us, when we have known each other such a little while!" I remarked.

"The true time is the long time!" he replied. "Would it be a sign that our love was strong, that it took a great while to come to anything? The strongest things--"

There he stopped, and I saw why: strongest things are not generally of quickest growth! But there was the eucalyptus! And was not St. Paul as good a Christian as any of them? I said nothing, however: there was indeed no rule in the matter!

"You must allow it possible," I said, "that we may not be married!"

"I will not," he answered. "It is true my mother may get me brought in as incapable of managing my own affairs; but--"

"What mother would do such a wicked thing!" I cried.

"_My mother," he answered.

"Oh!"

"She _would!_"

"I can't believe it."

"I am sure of it."

I held my peace. I could not help a sense of dismay at finding myself so near such a woman. I knew of bad women, but only in books: it would appear they were in other places as well!

"We must be on our guard," he said.

"Against what?"

"I don't know; whatever she may do."

"We can't do anything till she begins!"

"She has begun."

"How?" I asked incredulous.

"Leander is lame," he answered.

"I am so sorry!"

"I am so angry!"

"Is it possible I understand you?"

"Quite. _She did it."

"How do you know?"

"I can no more prove it than I can doubt it. I cannot inquire into my mother's proceedings. I leave that sort of thing to her. Let her spy on me as she will, I am not going to spy on her."

"Of course not! But if you have no proof, how can you state the thing as a fact?"

"I have what is proof enough for saying it to my own soul."

"But you have spoken of it to me!"

"You are my better soul. If you are not, then I have done wrong in saying it to you."

I hastened to tell him I had only made him say what I hoped he meant--only I wasn't his _better soul. He wanted me then to promise that I would marry him in spite of any and every thing. I promised that I would never marry any one but him. I could not say more, I said, not knowing what my uncle might think, but so much it was only fair to say. For I had gone so far as to let him know distinctly that I loved him; and what sort would that love be that could regard it as possible, at any distance of time, to marry another! Or what sort of woman could she be that would shrink from such a pledge! The mischief lies in promises made without forecasting thought. I knew what I was about. I saw forward and backward and all around me. A solitary education opens eyes that, in the midst of companions and engagements, are apt to remain shut. Knowledge of the world is no safeguard to man or woman. In the knowledge and love of truth, lies our only safety.

With that promise he had to be, and was content.

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