Robert Falconer by George MacDonald
Part III.--His Manhood
Chapter XVIII. Three Generations.
The next week I went back to my work, leaving the father and son alone together. Before I left, I could see plainly enough that the bonds were being drawn closer between them. A whole month passed before they returned to London. The winter then had set in with unusual severity. But it seemed to bring only health to the two men. When I saw Andrew next, there was certainly a marked change upon him. Light had banished the haziness from his eye, and his step was a good deal firmer. I can hardly speak of more than the physical improvement, for I saw very little of him now. Still I did think I could perceive more of judgment in his face, as if he sometimes weighed things in his mind. But it was plain that Robert continued very careful not to let him a moment out of his knowledge. He busied him with the various sights of London, for Andrew, although he knew all its miseries well, had never yet been inside Westminster Abbey. If he could only trust him enough to get him something to do! But what was he fit for? To try him, he proposed once that he should write some account of what he had seen and learned in his wanderings; but the evident distress with which he shrunk from the proposal was grateful to the eyes and heart of his son.
It was almost the end of the year when a letter arrived from John Lammie, informing Robert that his grandmother had caught a violent cold, and that, although the special symptoms had disappeared, it was evident her strength was sinking fast, and that she would not recover.
He read the letter to his father.
'We must go and see her, Robert, my boy,' said Andrew.
It was the first time that he had shown the smallest desire to visit her. Falconer rose with glad heart, and proceeded at once to make arrangements for their journey.
It was a cold, powdery afternoon in January, with the snow thick on the ground, save where the little winds had blown the crown of the street bare before Mrs. Falconer's house. A post-chaise with four horses swept wearily round the corner, and pulled up at her door. Betty opened it, and revealed an old withered face very sorrowful, and yet expectant. Falconer's feelings I dare not, Andrew's I cannot attempt to describe, as they stepped from the chaise and entered. Betty led the way without a word into the little parlour. Robert went next, with long quiet strides, and Andrew followed with gray, bowed head. Grannie was not in her chair. The doors which during the day concealed the bed in which she slept, were open, and there lay the aged woman with her eyes closed. The room was as it had always been, only there seemed a filmy shadow in it that had not been there before.
'She's deein', sir,' whispered Betty. 'Ay is she. Och hone!'
Robert took his father's hand, and led him towards the bed. They drew nigh softly, and bent over the withered, but not even yet very wrinkled face. The smooth, white, soft hands lay on the sheet, which was folded back over her bosom. She was asleep, or rather, she slumbered.
But the soul of the child began to grow in the withered heart of the old man as he regarded his older mother, and as it grew it forced the tears to his eyes, and the words to his lips.
'Mother!' he said, and her eyelids rose at once. He stooped to kiss her, with the tears rolling down his face. The light of heaven broke and flashed from her aged countenance. She lifted her weak hands, took his head, and held it to her bosom.
'Eh! the bonnie gray heid!' she said, and burst into a passion of weeping. She had kept some tears for the last. Now she would spend all that her griefs had left her. But there came a pause in her sobs, though not in her weeping, and then she spoke.
'I kent it a' the time, O Lord. I kent it a' the time. He's come hame. My Anerew, my Anerew! I'm as happy 's a bairn. O Lord! O Lord!'
And she burst again into sobs, and entered paradise in radiant weeping.
Her hands sank away from his head, and when her son gazed in her face he saw that she was dead. She had never looked at Robert.
The two men turned towards each other. Robert put out his arms. His father laid his head on his bosom, and went on weeping. Robert held him to his heart.
When shall a man dare to say that God has done all he can?