When we managed at last to reach the vicarage, I gave her in charge to my sister, with instructions to help her to bed at once, while I went for Dr Duncan.
Old Rogers’s Thanksgiving.
I found the old man seated at his dinner, which he left immediately when he heard that Miss Oldcastle needed his help. In a few words I told him, as we went, the story of what had befallen at the Hall, to which he listened with the interest of a boy reading a romance, asking twenty questions about the particulars which I hurried over. Then he shook me warmly by the hand, saying—
“You have fairly won her, Walton, and I am as glad of it as I could be of anything I can think of. She is well worth all you must have suffered. This will at length remove the curse from that wretched family. You have saved her from perhaps even a worse fate than her sister’s.”
“I fear she will be ill, though,” I said, “after all that she has gone through.”
But I did not even suspect how ill she would be.
As soon as I heard Dr Duncan’s opinion of her, which was not very definite, a great fear seized upon me that I was destined to lose her after all. This fear, however, terrible as it was, did not torture me like the fear that had preceded it. I could oftener feel able to say, “Thy will be done” than I could before.
Dr Duncan was hardly out of the house when Old Rogers arrived, and was shown into the study. He looked excited. I allowed him to tell out his story, which was his daughter’s of course, without interruption. He ended by saying:—
“Now, sir, you really must do summat. This won’t do in a Christian country. We ain’t aboard ship here with a nor’-easter a-walkin’ the quarter-deck.”
“There’s no occasion, my dear old fellow, to do anything.”
He was taken aback.
“Well, I don’t understand you, Mr Walton. You’re the last man I’d have expected to hear argufy for faith without works. It’s right to trust in God; but if you don’t stand to your halliards, your craft ’ll miss stays, and your faith ’ll be blown out of the bolt-ropes in the turn of a marlinspike.”
I suspect there was some confusion in the figure, but the old man’s meaning was plain enough. Nor would I keep him in a moment more of suspense.
“Miss Oldcastle is in the house, Old Rogers,” I said.
“What house, sir?” returned the old man, his gray eyes opening wider as he spoke.
“This house, to be sure.”
I shall never forget the look the old man cast upwards, or the reality given to it by the ordinarily odd sailor-fashion of pulling his forelock, as he returned inward thanks to the Father of all for His kindness to his friend. And never in my now wide circle of readers shall I find one, the most educated and responsive, who will listen to my story with a more gracious interest than that old man showed as I recounted to him the adventures of the evening. There were few to whom I could have told them: to Old Rogers I felt that it was right and natural and dignified to tell the story even of my love’s victory.