Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald
Chapter LXII. The Burn.
The moment they were settled in the Auld Hoose, Gibbie resumed the habits of the former winter, which Mistress Croale's failure had interrupted. And what a change it was to Ginevra--from imprisonment to ministration! She found difficulties at first, as may readily be believed. But presently came help. As soon as Mistress Croale heard of their return, she went immediately to Lady Galbraith, one morning while Sir Gibbie was at college, literally knelt at her feet, and with tears told her the whole tale, beseeching her intercession with Sir Gibbie.
"I want naething," she insisted, "but his fawvour, an' the licht o' his bonnie coontenance."
The end of course was that she was gladly received again into the house, where once more she attended to all the principal at least of her former duties. Before she died, there was a great change and growth in her: she was none of those before whom pearls must not be cast.
Every winter, for many years, Sir Gilbert and Lady Galbraith occupied the Auld Hoose; which by degrees came at length to be known as the refuge of all that were in honest distress, the salvation of all in themselves such as could be helped, and a covert for the night to all the houseless, of whatever sort, except those drunk at the time. Caution had to be exercised, and judgment used; the caution was tender and the judgment stern. The next year they built a house in a sheltered spot on Glashgar, and thither from the city they brought many invalids, to spend the summer months under the care of Janet and her daughter Robina, whereby not a few were restored sufficiently to earn their bread for a time thereafter.
The very day the session was over, they returned to Glashruach, where they were received by the laird, as he was still called, as if they had been guests. They found Joseph, the old butler, reinstated, and Angus again acting as gamekeeper. Ginevra welcomed Joseph, but took the first opportunity of telling Angus that for her father's sake Sir Gilbert allowed him to remain, but on the first act of violence he should at once be dismissed, and probably prosecuted as well. Donal's eldest brother was made bailiff. Before long Gibbie got the other two also about him, and as soon as, with justice, he was able, settled them together upon one of his farms. Every Saturday, so long as Janet lived, they met, as in the old times, at the cottage--only with Ginevra in the place of the absent Donal. More to her own satisfaction, after all, than Robert's, Janet went home first,--"to be at han'," she said, "to open the door till him whan he chaps." Then Robert went to his sons below on their farm, where he was well taken care of; but happily he did not remain long behind his wife. That first summer, Nicie returned to Glashruach to wait on Lady Galbraith, was more her friend than her servant, and when she married, was settled on the estate.
For some little time Ginevra was fully occupied in getting her house in order, and furnishing the new part of it. When that was done, Sir Gilbert gave an entertainment to his tenants. The laird preferred a trip to the city, "on business," to the humiliation of being present as other than the greatest; though perhaps he would have minded it less had he ever himself given a dinner to his tenants.
Robert and Janet declined the invitation.
"We're ower auld for makin' merry 'cep' in oor ain herts," said Janet. "But bide ye, my bonny Sir Gibbie, till we're a' up yon'er, an' syne we'll see."
The place of honour was therefore given to Jean Mavor, who was beside herself with joy to see her broonie lord of the land, and be seated beside him in respect and friendship. But her brother said it was "clean ridic'lous;" and not to the last would consent to regard the new laird as other than half-witted, insisting that everything was done by his wife, and that the talk on his fingers was a mere pretence.
When the main part of the dinner was over, Sir Gilbert and his lady stood at the head of the table, and, he speaking by signs and she interpreting, made a little speech together. In the course of it Sir Gibbie took occasion to apologize for having once disturbed the peace of the country-side by acting the supposed part of a broonie, and in relating his adventures of the time, accompanied his wife's text with such graphic illustration of gesture, that his audience laughed at the merry tale till the tears ran down their cheeks. Then with a few allusions to his strange childhood, he thanked the God who led him through thorny ways into the very arms of love and peace in the cottage of Robert and Janet Grant, whence, and not from the fortune he had since inherited, came all his peace.
"He desires me to tell you," said Lady Galbraith, "that he was a stranger, and you folk of Daurside took him in, and if ever he can do a kindness to you or yours, he will.--He desires me also to say, that you ought not to be left ignorant that you have a poet of your own, born and bred among you--Donal Grant, the son of Robert and Janet, the friend of Sir Gilbert's heart, and one of the noblest of men. And he begs you to allow me to read you a poem he had from him this very morning--probably just written. It is called The Laverock. I will read it as well as I can. If any of you do not like poetry, he says--I mean Sir Gilbert says--you can go to the kitchen and light your pipes, and he will send your wine there to you."
She ceased. Not one stirred, and she read the verses--which, for the sake of having Donal in at the last of my book, I will print. Those who do not care for verse, may--metaphorically, I would not be rude--go and smoke their pipes in the kitchen.
After the reading of the poem, Sir Gilbert and Lady Galbraith withdrew, and went towards the new part of the house, where they had their rooms. On the bridge, over which Ginevra scarcely ever passed without stopping to look both up and down the dry channel in the rock, she lingered as usual, and gazed from its windows. Below, the waterless bed of the burn opened out on the great valley of the Daur; above was the landslip, and beyond it the stream rushing down the mountain. Gibbie pointed up to it. She gazed a while, and gave a great sigh. He asked her--their communication was now more like that between two spirits: even signs had become almost unnecessary--what she wanted or missed. She looked in his face and said, "Naething but the sang o' my burnie, Gibbie." He took a small pistol from his pocket, and put it in her hand; then, opening the window, signed to her to fire it. She had never fired a pistol, and was a little frightened, but would have been utterly ashamed to shrink from anything Gibbie would have her do. She held it out, Her hand trembled. He laid his upon it, and it grew steady. She pulled the trigger, and dropped the pistol with a little cry. He signed to her to listen. A moment passed, and then, like a hugely magnified echo, came a roar that rolled from mountain to mountain, like a thunder drum. The next instant, the landslip seemed to come hurrying down the channel, roaring and leaping: it was the mud-brown waters of the burn, careering along as if mad with joy at having regained their ancient course. Ginevra stared with parted lips, delight growing to apprehension as the live thing momently neared the bridge. With tossing mane of foam, the brown courser came rushing on, and shot thundering under. They turned, and from the other window saw it tumbling headlong down the steep descent to the Lorrie. By quick gradations, even as they gazed, the mud melted away; the water grew clearer and clearer, and in a few minutes a small mountain-river, of a lovely lucid brown, transparent as a smoke-crystal, was dancing along under the bridge. It had ceased its roar and was sweetly singing.
"Let us see it from my room, Gibbie," said Ginevra.
They went up, and from the turret window looked down upon the water. They gazed until, like the live germ of the gathered twilight, it was scarce to be distinguished but by abstract motion.
"It's my ain burnie," said Ginevra, "an' it's ain auld sang! I'll warran' it hasna forgotten a note o' 't! Eh, Gibbie, ye gie me a' thing!"
"Gien I was a burnie, wadna I rin!" sang Gibbie, and Ginevra heard the words, though Gibbie could utter only the air he had found for them so long ago. She threw herself into his arms, and hiding her face on his shoulder, clung silent to her silent husband. Over her lovely bowed head, he gazed into the cool spring night, sparkling with stars, and shadowy with mountains. His eyes climbed the stairs of Glashgar to the lonely peak dwelling among the lights of God; and if upon their way up the rocks they met no visible sentinels of heaven, he needed neither ascending stairs nor descending angels, for a better than the angels was with them.