St. George and St. Michael
by George MacDonald
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'But if my conscience and I seek a daysman betwixt us?'

'Mortal man can never be that daysman, Dorothy. Nay, an' thou need an umpire, thou must seek to him who brought thee and thy conscience together and told thee to agree. Let God, over all and in all, tell thee whether or no thou wert wrong. For me, I dare not. Believe me, Dorothy, it is sheer presumption for one man to intermeddle with the things that belong to the spirit of another man.'

'But these are only the things of a woman,' said Dorothy, in pure childish humility born of love.

'Sure, Dorothy, thou wouldst not jest in such sober matters.'

'God forbid, Richard! I but spoke that which was in me. I see now it was foolishness.'

'All a man can do in this matter of judgment,' said Richard, 'is to lead his fellow man, if so be he can, up to the judgment of God. He must never dare judge him for himself. An' thou cannot tell whether thou did well or ill in what thou didst, thou shouldst not vex thy soul. God is thy refuge—even from the wrongs of thine own judgment. Pray to him to let thee know the truth, that if needful thou mayst repent. Be patient and not sorrowful until he show thee. Nor fear that he will judge thee harshly because he must judge thee truly. That were to wrong God. Trust in him even when thou fearest wrong in thyself, for he will deliver thee therefrom.'

'Ah! how good and kind art thou, Richard.'

'How should I be other to thee, beloved Dorothy?'

'Thou art not then angry with me that I did deceive thee?'

'If thou didst right, wherefore should I be angry? If thou didst wrong, I am well content to know that thou wilt be sorry therefor as soon as thou seest it, and before that thou canst not, thou must not, be sorry. I am sure that what thou knowest to be right that thou will do, and it seemeth as if God himself were content with that for the time. What the very right thing is, concerning which we may now differ, we must come to see together one day—the same, and not another, to both, and this doing of what we see, is to each of us the path thither. Let God judge us, Dorothy, for his judgment is light in the inward parts, showing the truth and enabling us to judge ourselves. For me to judge thee and thee me, Dorothy, would with it bear no light. Why, Dorothy, knowest thou not—yet how shouldst thou know? that this is the very matter for the which we, my father and his party, contend—that each man, namely, in matters of conscience, shall be left to his God, and remain unjudged of his brother? And if I fight for this on mine own part, unto whom should I accord it if not to thee, Dorothy, who art the highest in soul and purest in mind and bravest in heart of all women I have known? Therefore I love thee with all the power of a heart that loves that which is true before that which is beautiful, and that which is honest before that which is of good report.'

What followed I leave to the imagination of such of my readers as are capable of understanding that the truer the nature the deeper must be the passion, and of hoping that the human soul will yet burst into grander blossoms of love than ever poet has dreamed, not to say sung. I leave it also to the hearts of those who understand that love is greater than knowledge. For those who have neither heart nor imagination—only brains—to them I presume to leave nothing, knowing what self-satisfying resources they possess of their own.

The pair wandered all over the ruins together, and Dorothy had a hundred places to take Richard to, and tell him what they had been and how they had looked in their wholeness and use—amongst the rest her own chamber, whither Marquis had brought her the letter which mistress Upstill had found so badly concealed.

Then Richard's turn came, and he gave Dorothy a sadly vivid account of what he had seen of the destruction of the place; how, as if with whole republics of ants, it had swarmed all over with men paid to destroy it; how in every direction the walls were falling at once; how they dug and drained at fish-ponds and moat in the wild hope of finding hidden treasure, and had found in the former nothing but mud and a bunch of huge old keys, the last of some lost story of ancient days,—and in the latter nothing but a pair of silver-gilt spurs, which he had himself bought of the fellow who found them. He told her what a terrible shell the Tower of towers had been to break—how after throwing its battlemented crown into the moat, they had in vain attacked the walls, might almost as well have sought with pickaxes and crowbars to tear asunder the living rock, and at last—but this was hearsay, he had not seen it—had undermined the wall, propped it up with timber, set the timber on fire, and so succeeded in bringing down a portion of the hard, tough massy defence.

'What became of the wild beasts in the base of the kitchen-tower, dost know, Richard?'

'I saw their cages,' answered Richard, 'but they were empty. I asked what they were, and what had become of the animals, of which all the country had heard, but no one could tell me. I asked them questions until they began to puzzle themselves to answer them, and now I believe all Gwent is divided between two opinions as to their fate—one, that they are roaming the country, the other that lord Herbert, as they still call him, has by his magic conveyed them away to Ireland to assist him in a general massacre of the Protestants.'

Mighty in mutual faith, neither politics, nor morals, nor even theology was any more able to part those whose plain truth had begotten absolute confidence. Strive they might, sin they could not, against each other. They talked, wandering about, a long time, forgetting, I am sorry to say, even their poor shivering horses, which, after trying to console themselves with the renewal of a friendship which a broad white line across Lady's face had for a moment, on Dick's part, somewhat impeded, had become very restless. At length an expostulatory whinny from Lady called Richard to his duty, and with compunctions of heart the pair hurried to mount. They rode home together in a bliss that would have been too deep almost for conscious delight but that their animals were eager after motion, and as now the surface of the fields had grown soft, they turned into them, and a tremendous gallop soon brought their gladness to the surface in great fountain throbs of joy.



And now must I bury my dead out of my sight—bid farewell to the old resplendent, stately, scarred, defiant Raglan, itself the grave of many an old story, and the cradle of the new, and alas! in contrast with the old, not merely the mechanical, but the unpoetic and commonplace, yes vulgar era of our island's history. Little did lord Herbert dream of the age he was initiating—of the irreverence and pride and destruction that were about to follow in his footsteps, wasting, defiling, scarring, obliterating, turning beauty into ashes, and worse! That divine mechanics should thus, through selfishness and avarice, be leagued with filth and squalor and ugliness! When one looks upon Raglan, indignation rises—not at the storm of iron which battered its walls to powder, hardly even at the decree to level them with the dust, but at the later destroyer who could desecrate the beauty yet left by wrath and fear, who with the stones of my lady's chamber would build a kennel, or with the carved stones of chapel or hall a barn or cowhouse! What would the inventor of the water-commanding engine have said to the pollution of our waters, the destruction of the very landmarks of our history, the desecration of ruins that ought to be venerated for their loveliness as well as their story! Would he not have broken it to pieces, that the ruin it must occasion might not be laid to his charge? May all such men as for the sake of money constitute themselves the creators of ugliness, not to speak of far worse evils in the land, live—or die, I care not which—to know in their own selves what a lovely human Psyche lies hid even in the chrysalis of a railway-director, and to loathe their past selves as an abomination—incredible but that it had been. He who calls such a wish a curse, must undergo it ere his being can be other than a blot.

But this era too will pass, and truth come forth in forms new and more lovely still.

The living Raglan has gone from me, and before me rise the broken, mouldering walls which are the monument of their own past. My heart swells as I think of them, lonely in the deepening twilight, when the ivy which has flung itself like a garment about the bareness of their looped and windowed raggedness is but as darker streaks of the all prevailing dusk, and the moon is gathering in the east. Fain would the soul forsake the fettersome body for a season, to go flitting hither and thither, alighting and flitting, like a bat or a bird—now drawing itself slow along a moulding to taste its curve and flow, now creeping into a cranny, and brooding and thinking back till the fancy feels the tremble of an ancient kiss yet softly rippling the air, or descries the dim stain which no tempest can wash away. Ah, here is a stair! True there are but three steps, a broken one and a fragment. What said I? See how the phantom-steps continue it, winding up and up to the door of my lady's chamber! See its polished floor, black as night, its walls rich with tapestry, lovelily old, and harmoniously withered, for the ancient time had its ancient times, and its things that had come down from solemn antiquity—see the silver sconces, the tall mirrors, the part-open window, long, low, carved latticed, and filled with lozenge panes of the softest yellow green, in a multitude of shades! There stands my lady herself, leaning from it, looking down into the court! Ah, lovely lady! is not thy heart as the heart of my mother, my wife, my daughters? Thou hast had thy troubles. I trust they are over now, and that thou art satisfied with God for making thee!

The vision fades, and the old walls rise like a broken cenotaph. But the same sky, with its clouds never the same, hangs over them; the same moon will fold them all night in a doubtful radiance, befitting the things that dwell alone, and are all of other times, for she too is but a ghost, a thing of the past, and her light is but the light of memory; into the empty crannies blow the same winds that once refreshed the souls of maiden and man-at-arms, only the yellow flower that grew in its gardens now grows upon its walls. And however the mind, or even the spirit of man may change, the heart remains the same, and an effort to read the hearts of our forefathers will help us to know the heart of our neighbour.

Whoever cares to distinguish the bones of fact from the drapery of invention in the foregone tale, will find them all in the late Mr. Dirck's 'Life of the Marquis of Worcester,' and the 'Certamen Religiosum' and 'Golden Apophthegms' of Dr. Bayly.


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