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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat's Mine's Mine - Volume 3 - Chapter 10. Midnight
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What's Mine's Mine - Volume 3 - Chapter 10. Midnight Post by :paulwoodley Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :2627

Click below to download : What's Mine's Mine - Volume 3 - Chapter 10. Midnight (Format : PDF)

What's Mine's Mine - Volume 3 - Chapter 10. Midnight

VOLUME III CHAPTER X. MIDNIGHT

Mercy sat alone but not lonely at her window. A joy in her heart made her independent for the time of human intercourse. Life at the moment was livable without it, for there was no bar between her and her lover.

The evening drew on. They sent her food. She forgot to eat it, and sat looking, till the lines of the horizon seemed grown into her mind like an etching. She watched the slow dusk swell and gather--with such delicate, soft-blending gradations in the birth of night as Edwin Waugh loves to seize and word-paint. Through all its fine evanescent change of thought and feeling she watched unconsciously; and the growth, death, and burial of that twilight were ever after a substratum to all the sadness and all the hope that visited her. Through palest eastern rose, through silvery gold and golden green and brown, the daylight passed into the shadow of the light, and the stars, like hope in despair, began to show themselves where they always were, and the night came on, and deeper and deeper sank the silence. Household sound expired, and no step came near her door. Her father had given orders, and was obeyed. Christina has stolen indeed from her own room and listened at hers, but hearing nor sound nor motion, had concluded it better for Mercy as well as safer for herself, to return. So she sat the sole wakeful thing in the house, for even her father slept.

The earth had grown vague and dim, looking as it must look to the dead. Its oppressive solidity, its obtrusive HERENESS, dissolved in the dark, it left the soul to live its own life. She could still trace the meeting of earth and sky, each the evidence of the other, but the earth was content to be and not assert, and the sky lived only in the points of light that dotted its vaulted quiet. Sound itself seemed asleep, and filling the air with the repose of its slumber. Absolute silence the soul cannot grasp; therefore deepest silence seems ever, in Wordsworth's lovely phrase, wandering into sound, for silence is but the thin shadow of harmony--say rather creation's ear agape for sound, the waiting matrix of interwoven melodies, the sphere-bowl standing empty for the wine of the spirit. There may be yet another reason beyond its too great depth or height or strength, why we should be deaf to the spheral music; it may be that the absolute perfection of its harmony can take to our ears but the shape of silence.

Content and patient, Mercy sat watching.

It was just past midnight, but she had not yet lighted a candle, when something struck the window as with the soft blow of a moth's wing. Her heart gave a great leap. She listened breathless. Nothing followed. It must have been some flying night-thing, though surely too late in the year for a moth!

It came again! She dared not speak. She softly opened the window. The darkness had thinned on the horizon, and the half-moon was lifting a corner above the edge of the world. Something in the shrubbery answered her shine, and without rustle of branch, quiet as a ghost, the chief stepped into the open space. Mercy leaned toward him and said,

"Hush! speak low."

"There is no need to say much," he answered." I come only to tell you that, as man may, I am with you always."

"How quietly you came! I did not hear a sound!"

"I have been two hours here in the shrubbery."

"And I not once to suspect it! You might have given me some hint! A very small one would have been enough! Why did you not let me know?"

"It was not your hour; it is twelve but now; the moon comes to say so. I came for the luxury of expectation, and the delight of knowing you better attended than you thought: you knew me with you in spirit; I was with you in the body too!"

"My chief!" she said softly. "I shall always find you nearer and better than I was able to think! I know I do not know how good you are."

"I am good toward you, Mercy! I love you!"

A long silence, save of shining eyes, followed.

"We are waiting for God!" said Alister at length.

"Waiting is loving," answered Mercy.

She leaned out, looking down to her heaven.

The moon had been climbing the sky, veiled in a little cloud. The cloud vanished, and her light fell on the chief.

"Have you been to a ball?" said Mercy.

"No, Mercy. I doubt if there will be any dancing more in Strathruadh!"

"Then why are you in court dress?"

"When should a Celt, who of all the world loves radiance and colour, put on his gay attire? For the multitude, or for the one?"

"Thank you. Is it a compliment?--But after your love, everything fine seems only natural!"

"In love there are no compliments; truth only walks the sacred path between the two doors. I will love you as my father loved my mother, and loves her still."

"I do like to see you shining! It was kind of you to dress for the moon and me!"

"Whoever loves the truth must love shining things! God is the father of lights, even of the lights hid in the dark earth--sapphires and rubies, and all the families of splendour."

"I shall always see you like that!"

"There is one thing I want to say to you, Mercy:--you will not think me indifferent however long I may be in proposing a definite plan for our future! We must wait upon God!"

"I shall think nothing you would not have me think. A little while ago I might have dreamed anything, for I was fast asleep. I was dead till you waked me. If I were what girls call IN LOVE, I should be impatient to be with you; but I love you much more than that, and do not need to be always with you. You have made me able to think, and I can think about you! I was but a child, and you made a woman of me!"

"God and Ian did," said Alister.

"Yes, but through you, and I want to be worthy of you. A woman to whom a man's love was so little comfort that she pined away and died because she could not be married to him, would not be a wife worthy of my chief!"

"Then you will always trust me?"

"I will. When one really knows another, then all is safe!"

"How many people do you know?" asked the chief.

She thought a moment, and with a little laugh, replied,

"You."

"Pardon me, Mercy, but I do want to know how your father treats you!"

"We will not talk about him, please. He is my father!--and so far yours that you are bound to make what excuse you can for him."

"That I am bound to do, if he were no father to either of us. It is what God is always doing for us!--only he will never let us off."

"He has had no one to teach him, Alister! and has always been rich, and accustomed to have his own way! I begin to think one punishment of making money in a wrong manner is to be prosperous in it!"

"I am sure you are right! But will you be able to bear poverty, Mercy?"

"Yes," she answered, but so carelessly that she seemed to speak without having thought.

"You do not know what poverty means!" rejoined Alister. "We may have to endure much for our people!"

"It means YOU any way, does it not? If you and poverty come together, welcome you and your friend!--I see I must confess a thing! Do you remember telling me to read Julius Caesar?"

"Yes."

"Do you remember how Portia gave herself a wound, that she might prove to her husband she was able to keep a secret?"

"Yes, surely!"

"I have my meals in my room now, so I can do as I please, and I never eat the nice things dear mother always sends me, but potatoes, and porridge, and bread and milk."

"What IS that for, Mercy?"

"To show you I am worthy of being poor--able at least to be poor. I have not once tasted anything VERY nice since the letter that made my father so angry."

"You darling!"

Of all men a highlander understands independence of the KIND of food.

"But," continued Alister, "you need not go on with it; I am quite convinced; and we must take with thanksgiving what God gives us. Besides, you have to grow yet!"

"Alister! and me like a May-pole!"

"You are tall enough, but we are creatures of three dimensions, and need more than height. You must eat, or you will certainly be ill!"

"Oh, I eat! But just as you please! Only it wouldn't do me the least harm so long as you didn't mind! It was as much to prove to myself I could, as to you! But don't you think it must he nearly time for people to wake from their first sleep?"

The same instant there was a little noise--like a sob. Mercy started, and when she looked again Alister had vanished--as noiselessly as he came. For a moment she sat afraid to move. A wind came blowing upon her from the window: some one had opened her door! What if it were her father! She compelled herself to turn her head. It was something white!--it was Christina! She came to her through the shadow of the moonlight, put her arms round her, and pressed to her face a wet cheek. For a moment or two neither spoke.

"I heard a little, Mercy!" sobbed Christina. "Forgive me; I meant no harm; I only wanted to know if you were awake; I was coming to see you."

"Thank you, Chrissy! That was good of you!"

"You are a dear!--and so is your chief! I am sorry I scared him! It made me so miserable to hear you so happy that I could not help it! Would you mind forgiving me, dear?"

"I don't mind your hearing a bit. I am glad you should know how the chief loves me!"

But you must be careful, dear! Papa might pretend to take him for a robber, and shoot him!"

"Oh, no, Chrissy! He wouldn't do that!"

"I would not be too sure! I hadn't an idea before what papa was like! Oh what men are, and what they can be! I shall never hold up my head again!"

With this incoherent speech, to Mercy's astonishment and consternation she burst into tears. Mercy tried to comfort her, but did not know how. She had seen for some time that there was a difference in her, that something was the matter, and wondered whether she could be missing Ian, but it was merest surmise. Perhaps now she would tell her!

She was weeping like a child on her shoulder. Presently she began to tremble. Mercy coaxed her into her bed, and undressing quickly, lay down beside her, and took her in her arms to make her warm. Before the morning, with many breaks of sobbing and weeping, Christina had told Mercy her story.

"I wish you would let me tell the chief!" she said. "He would know how to comfort you."

"Thank you!" said Christina, with not a little indignation. "I forgot I was talking to a girl as good as married, who would not keep my secrets any more than her own!"

She would have arisen at once to go to her own room, and the night that had brought such joy to Mercy threatened to end very sadly. She threw her arms round Christina's waist, locked her hands together, and held her fast.

"Hear me, Chrissy, darling! I am a great big huge brute," she cried. "But I was only stupid. I would not tell a secret of yours even to Alister--not for worlds! If I did, he would be nearer despising me than I should know how to bear. I will not tell him. Did I ever break my word to you, Chrissy?"

"No, never, Mercy!" responded Christina, and turning she put her arms round her.

"Besides," she went on, "why should I go to anyone for counsel? Could I have a better counsellor than Ian? Is he not my friend? Oh, he is! he is! he said so! he said so!"

The words prefaced another storm of tears.

"He is going to write to me," she sobbed, as soon as she could again speak.

"Perhaps he will love you yet, Chrissy!"

"No, no; he will never love me that way! For goodness' sake don't hint at such a thing! I should not be able to write a word to him, if I thought that! I should feel a wolf in sheep's clothing! I have done with tricks and pretendings! Ian shall never say to himself, 'I wish I had not trusted that girl! I thought she was going to be honest! But what's bred in the bone--!' I declare, Mercy, I should blush myself out of being to learn he thought of me like that! I mean to be worthy of his friendship! His friendship is better than any other man's love! I will be worthy of it!"

The poor girl burst yet again into tears--not so bitter as before, and ended them all at once with a kiss to Mercy.

"For his sake," she said, "I am going to take care of Alister and you!"

"Thank you! thank you, Chrissy! Only you must not do anything to offend papa! It is hard enough on him as it is! I cannot give up the chief to please him, for he has been a father to my better self; but we must do nothing to trouble him that we can help!"

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