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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWeighed And Wanting - Chapter 58. Father And Daughter-In-Law
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Weighed And Wanting - Chapter 58. Father And Daughter-In-Law Post by :voltaire11 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1041

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Weighed And Wanting - Chapter 58. Father And Daughter-In-Law

CHAPTER LVIII. FATHER AND DAUGHTER-IN-LAW

Hester carried poor little Amy to her own room, laid her on her own bed, and did for her all one child of God could do for another. With hands tender as a mother's, and weeping as she had never wept before, she undressed her, put her in a warm bath, then got her into bed, and used every enticement and persuasion to induce her to take some nourishment--with poor success: the heart seemed to have gone out of her. But instinctively Amy asked for milk, and that brought her round better than anything else could have done. Still she lay like one dead, seeming to care for nothing. She scarcely answered Hester when she spoke, though she tried to smile to her: the most pitiful thing was that smile Hester had ever seen. Her very brain and blood were haunted with the presence of Corney's father. He seemed ever and always to be standing over her and Corney with that terrible whip. All her thought was how to get him away from the frightful place. Hester did her best to reassure her. She told her Corney was fast asleep and little the worse; did all she could to keep her quiet, and soothe her to sleep; and a little after midnight was successful. Then she lay down herself on the sofa beside her bed, sorely exhausted.

In the gray of the morning Mr. Raymount woke. He was aware of a great hush about him. He looked from the window, and saw in the east the first glimmer of a lovely spring-day. The stillness awed, almost frightened him. It was not around him only but in him; his very soul seemed hushed, as if in his sleep the Voice had said "Peace! be still!" He felt like a naughty child, who, having slept, seems to have slept away his naughtiness. Yesterday seemed far away--only the shudder of it was left; but he knew if he began to think it would be back with its agony. Had some angel been by his bedside to soothe him? A demon had surely possessed him! Had it been but hinted as within the bounds of possibility that he should behave to a woman as he had behaved, he would have laughed the idea to scorn! He had always thought himself a chivalrous gentleman! This was the end of his faith in himself! His grand Hester would not feel herself safe from him! Truly a demon had possessed him: might not an angel have been by him as he slept?

What had become of the poor girl? But he needed not to be anxious about her: neither his wife nor his daughter would have turned her out into the night! He would still be able to do something for her! He must make atonement for treating her so brutally! Hope dawned feebly on his murky horizon. He would be good to her as he would never have thought of had he not ill-used her so! There was something to be done for everybody--for himself and for poor Amy Amber! If she was gone he would spend every penny he had to find her! But Cornelius would know! He must see him! He would tell him he was sorry he had struck him!

In the yet dark gray of the morning he went to his son's room.

When he had all but reached the door he saw it was a little open. The next instant he heard a soft voice within speaking persuadingly. He went close and listened. It was Amy's voice!--In his house! In his son's room! And after the lesson he had given them but the night before! This was too bad! He pushed the door--and looked in! The dainty little figure that had haunted his dreams was half lying on the bed, with an arm thrown round his son. He could not see her face, but he could hear perfectly the words that came through the dusk.

"Corney darling!" she said, "you must get up. You must come away. Here I am to take you from them. I was sure they were not treating you well! That was what made me come. I did not know how cruel they were, or I would have come long ago. But, Corney, you must have done something very wrong! I don't mean to me; I don't care what you do to me; I am your own. But you must have done something very wrong to make your father so angry with you! And you cannot have said you were sorry, or he would have forgiven you! He can't be a bad man--though he does hurt dreadfully!"

"He is a very good man!" muttered Corney from the pillow.

"But I'm afraid," continued Amy, "if he hasn't been able to make you sorry before, he will never be able now! To beat you as he did last night will never make you repent."

"Oh, he didn't hurt me much! You don't think a fellow would mind that sort of thing from his own father--when he was in a passion, don't you know? Besides, Amy--to you I will confess it--I only gave him too good reason."

"Come, then, come. We will go somewhere. I want to make you think the right way about the thing; and when you are sorry, we will come back and tell him so. Then perhaps he will forgive me and we shall be all happy again."

What was this he heard! The cunning creature! This was her trick to entice him from his home!--And just as the poor boy was beginning to repent too! She knew her trade! She would fall in with his better mood and pretend goodness! She would help him to do what he ought! She would be his teacher in righteousness! Deep, deep she was--beyond anything he had dreamed possible! No doubt the fellow was just as bad as she, but not the less must he do what little he yet might for the redemption of his son!

But as he thought thus it smote him that Cornelius could not but prefer going with one who loved him, and talked to him like that, let her be what she might, to staying with a father who treated him as he had been doing ever since he came home! He would behave to him very differently after this! But he must interfere now, cost what it might! What else was he father for!

He pushed the door wide and went in.

Amy heard and raised herself from the bed, stood upright and faced the comer. There was just light enough to see that it was the father. The horrid idea shot through her mind that it was his custom to come thus to his son's room in the night and lash him. She roused every fevered nerve to do battle with the strong man for his son. Clenching her little hands hard, she stood like a small David between the bed and the coming Goliath.

"Get out of this," he said, with the sternness of wrath suppressed.

"I came to take him away," said Amy, who had begun to tremble from head to foot. "It is my business to take care of him."

"Your business to take care of him from his own"--he hesitated, then said--"mother?" which certainly was the more fitting word.

"If," answered Amy, "a man is to leave father and mother and cleave to his wife, it's the least thing the wife can do to take care of him from his father!"

Mr. Raymount stood confounded: what could the hussey mean? Was she going to pretend she was married to him? Indignation and rage began to rise afresh; but if he gave way what might he not be guilty of a second time! A rush of shame choked the words that crowded to his lips; and with the self-restraint came wholesome doubt: was it possible he had married her? Was it not possible? Would it not be just worthy of him to have done so and never told one of his family! At least there need be nothing incredible in it! This girl--yes--plainly she had both cunning and fascination enough to make him not only run after her but marry her! How was he to come at the truth of the thing? The coward would not have the courage to contradict her, but he would know if he were lying!

"Do you mean to tell me," he said, "that he has married you--without a word to his own father or mother?"

Then out at last spoke Cornelius, rising on his elbow in the bed:

"Yes, father," he said, with slow determination, "I have married her. It is all my fault, not one bit hers. I could never have persuaded her had I not made her believe you knew all about it and had no objection."

"Why did you not let us know then?" cried the father in a voice which ill suited the tameness of the question.

"Because I was a coward," answered Corney, speaking the truth with courage. "I knew you would not like it."

"Little _you know of what I like or dislike!"

"You can soon prove him wrong, sir!" said Amy, clasping her hands, and looking up in his face through the growing light of the morning. "Forgive us, and take me too; I was so happy to think I was going to belong to you all! I would never have married him, if I had known--without your consent, I mean. It was very wrong of Corney, but I will try to make him sorry for it."

"You never will!" said Corney, again burying his head in the pillow.

Now first the full horror of what he had done broke upon the mind of Mr. Raymount. He stood for a moment appalled.

"You will let me take him away then?" said Amy, thinking he hesitated to receive her.

Now whether it was from an impulse of honesty towards her, or of justification of himself, I cannot tell, but he instantly returned:

"Do you know that his money is stolen?"

"If he stole it," she replied, "he will never steal again."

"He will never get another chance. He cannot get a situation now."

"I will work for both. It will only be me instead of him, and that's no difference; he belongs to me as much as I do to him. If he had only kept nothing from me, nothing of this would have happened.--Do come, Corney, while I am able to walk; I feel as if I were going to die."

"And this is the woman I was such a savage to last night!" said Mr. Raymount to himself.

"Forgive me, Amy!" he cried, stretching out his arms to her. "I have behaved like a brute! To strike my son's wife! I deserve to be hanged for it! I shall never forgive myself! But you must forgive me for Christ's sake."

Long ere he had ended Amy was in his arms, clinging to him--he holding her fast to his bosom.

The strong man was now the weaker; the father and not the daughter wept. She drew back her head.

"Come, Corney," she cried; "come directly! Out of your bed and down on your knees to your own blessed father, and confess your sins. Tell him you're sorry for them, and you'll never do them again."

Corney obeyed: in some strange, lovely way she had got the mistressship of his conscience as well as his heart. He got out of bed at once, went straight down on his knees as she told him, and though he did not speak, was presently weeping like a child. It was a strange group in the gray of the new morning--ah, indeed, a new morning for them!--the girl in the arms of the elderly man, and the youth kneeling at their feet, both men weeping and the girl radiant.

Gerald Raymount closed the door on his son and his son's wife, and hastened to his own to tell her all.

"Then surely will the forgiveness of God and his father take away Corney's disgrace!" said the mother.

The arrival of this state of things was much favoured by the severe illness into which Amy fell immediately the strain was off her. She was brought almost to death's door. Corney in his turn became nurse, and improved not a little from his own anxiety, her sweetness, and the sympathy of every one, his father included, with both of them. But such was her constitution that when she began to recover she recovered rapidly, and was soon ready for the share lovingly allotted her in the duties of the house.

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