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George came again to see him the next day, and had again a long conference with him. The laird told him that he had fully resolved to leave everything to his daughter, personal as well as real, on the one condition that she should marry her cousin; if she would not, then the contents of his closet, with his library, and certain articles specified, should pass to Crawford.
"And you must take care," he said, "if my death should come suddenly, that anything valuable in this room be carried into the closet before it is sealed up."
Shrinking as he did from the idea of death, the old man was yet able, in the interest of his possessions, to talk of it! It was as if he thought the sole consolation that, in the loss of their owner, his things could have, was the continuance of their intercourse with each other in the heaven of his Mammon-besotted imagination.
George responded heartily, showing a gratitude more genuine than fine: every virtue partakes of the ground in which it is grown. He assured the laird that, valuable as was in itself his contingent gift, which no man could appreciate more than he, it would be far more valuable to him if it sealed his adoption as his son-in-law. He would rather owe the possession of the wonderful collection to the daughter than to the father! In either case the precious property would be held as for him, each thing as carefully tended as by the laird's own eye and hand!
Whether it would at the moment have comforted the dying man to be assured, as George might have him, that there would be nothing left of him to grieve at the loss of his idols--nothing left of him but a memory, to last so long as George and Alexa and one or two more should remain unburied, I can not tell. It was in any case a dreary outlook for him. Hope and faith and almost love had been sucked from his life by "the hindering knot-grass" which had spread its white bloodless roots in all directions through soul and heart and mind, exhausting and choking in them everything of divinest origin. The weeds in George's heart were of another kind, and better nor worse in themselves; the misery was that neither of them was endeavoring to root them out. The thief who is trying to be better is ages ahead of the most honorable man who is making no such effort. The one is alive; the other is dead and on the way to corruption.
They treated themselves to a gaze together on the cup and the watch; then George went to give directions to the laird's lawyer for the drawing up of his new will.
The next day it was brought, read, signed by the laird, and his signature duly witnessed.
Dawtie being on the spot was made one of the witnesses. The laird trembled lest her fanaticism should break out in appeal to the lawyer concerning the cup; he could not understand that the cup was nothing to her; that she did not imagine herself a setter right of wrongs, but knew herself her neighbor's keeper, one that had to deliver his soul from death! Had the cup come into her possession, she would have sent it back to the owner, but it was not worth her care that the Earl of Borland should cast his eyes when he would upon a jewel in a cabinet!
Dawtie was very white as he signed his name. Where the others saw but a legal ceremony, she feared her loved master was assigning his soul to the devil, as she had read of Dr. Faustus in the old ballad. He was gliding away into the dark, and no one to whom he had done a good turn with the Mammon of unrighteousness, was waiting to receive him into an everlasting habitation! She had and she needed no special cause to love her master, any more than to love the chickens and the calves; she loved because something that could be loved was there present to her; but he had always spoken kindly to her, and been pleased with her endeavor to serve him; and now he was going where she could do nothing for him!--except pray, as her heart and Andrew had taught her, knowing that "all live unto Him!" But alas! what were prayers where the man would not take the things prayed for! Nevertheless all things were possible with God, and she would pray for him!
It was also with white face, and it was with trembling hand that she signed her own name, for she felt as if giving him a push down the icy slope into the abyss.
But when the thing was done, the old man went quietly to sleep, and dreamed of a radiant jewel, glorious as he had never seen jewel, ever within yet ever eluding his grasp.
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