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Time passed, but with little change in the condition of the patient. Winter began to draw on, and both doctors feared a more rapid decline.
Early in the month of November, Dorothy received a letter from Mr. Herbert, informing her that her cousin, Henry Vaughan, one of his late twin pupils, would, on his way from Oxford, be passing near Raglan, and that he had desired him to call upon her. Willing enough to see her relative, she thought little more of the matter, until at length the day was at hand, when she found herself looking for his arrival with some curiosity as to what sort of person he might prove of whom she had heard so often from his master.
When at length he was ushered into lady Glamorgan's parlour, where her mistress had desired her to receive him, both her ladyship and Dorothy were at once prejudiced in his favour. They saw a rather tall young man of five or six and twenty, with a small head, a clear grey eye, and a sober yet changeful countenance. His carriage was dignified yet graceful--self-restraint and no other was evident therein; a certain sadness brooded like a thin mist above his eyes, but his smile now and then broke out like the sun through a grey cloud. Dorothy did not know that he was just getting over the end of a love-story, or that he had a book of verses just printed, and had already begun to repent it.
After the usual greetings, and when Dorothy had heard the last news of Mr. Herbert,--for Mr. Vaughan had made several journeys of late between Brecknock and Oxford, taking Llangattock Rectory in his way, and could tell her much she did not know concerning her friend,--lady Glamorgan, who was not sorry to see her interested in a young man whose royalist predilections were plain and strong, proposed that Dorothy should take him over the castle.
She led him first to the top of the tower, show him the reservoir and the prospect; but there they fell into such a talk as revealed to Dorothy that here was a man who was her master in everything towards which, especially since her mother's death and her following troubles, she had most aspired, and a great hope arose in her heart for her cousin Scudamore. For in this talk it had come out that Mr. Vaughan had studied medicine, and was now on his way to settle for practice at Brecknock. As soon as Dorothy learned this, she entreated her cousin Vaughan to go and visit her cousin Scudamore. He consented, and Dorothy, scarcely allowing him to pause even under the admirable roof of the great hall as they passed through, led him straight to the turret-chamber, where the sick man was.
They found him sitting by the fire, folded in blankets, listless and sad.
When Dorothy had told him whom she had brought to see him, she would have left them, but Rowland turned on her such beseeching eyes, that she remained, by no means unwillingly, and seated herself to hear what this wonderful young phyisican would say.
'It is very irksome to be thus prisoned in your chamber, sir Rowland,' he said.
'No,' answered Scudamore, 'or yes: I care not.'
'Have you no books about you?' asked Mr. Vaughan, glancing round the room.
'Books!' repeated Scudamore, with a wan contemptuous smile.
'You do not then love books?'
'Wherefore should I love books? What can books do for me? I love nothing. I long only to die.'
'And go----?' suggested, rather than asked, Mr. Vaughan.
'I care not whither--anywhere away from here--if indeed I go anywhere. But I care not.'
'That is hardly what you mean, sir Rowland, I think. Will you allow me to interpret you? Have you not the notion that if you were hence you would leave behind you a certain troublesome attendant who is scarce worth his wages?'
Scudamore looked at him but did not reply; and Mr. Vaughan went on.
'I know well what aileth you, for I am myself but now recovering from a similar sickness, brought upon me by the haunting of the same evil one who torments you.'
'You think, then, that I am possessed?' said Rowland, with a faint smile and a glance at Dorothy.
'That verily thou art, and grievously tormented. Shall I tell thee who hath possessed thee?--for the demon hath a name that is known amongst men, though it frighteneth few, and draweth many, alas! His name is Self, and he is the shadow of thy own self. First he made thee love him, which was evil, and now he hath made thee hate him, which is evil also. But if he be cast out and never more enter into thy heart, but remain as a servant in thy hall, then wilt thou recover from this sickness, and be whole and sound, and shall find the varlet serviceable.'
'Art thou not an exorciser, then, Mr. Vaughan, as well as a discerner of spirits? I would thou couldst drive the said demon out of me, for truly I love him not.'
'Through all thy hate thou lovest him more than thou knowest. Thou seest him vile, but instead of casting him out, thou mournest over him with foolish tears. And yet thou dreamest that by dying thou wouldst be rid of him. No, it is back to thy childhood thou must go to be free.'
'That were a strange way to go, sir. I know it not. There seems to be a purpose in what you say, Mr. Vaughan, but you take me not with you. How can I rid me of myself, so long as I am Rowland Scudamore?'
'There is a way, sir Rowland--and but one way. Human words at least, however it may be with some high heavenly language, can never say the best things but by a kind of stumbling, wherein one contradiction keepeth another from falling. No man, as thou sayest, truly, can rid him of himself and live, for that involveth an impossibility. But he can rid himself of that: haunting shadow of his own self, which he hath pampered and fed upon shadowy lies, until it is bloated and black with pride and folly. When that demon king of shades is once cast out, and the man's house is possessed of God instead, then first he findeth his true substantial self, which is the servant, nay, the child of God. To rid thee of thyself thou must offer it again to him that made it. Be thou empty that he may fill thee. I never understood this until these latter days. Let me impart to thee certain verses I found but yesterday, for they will tell thee better what I mean. Thou knowest the sacred volume of the blessed George Herbert?'
'I never heard of him or it,' said Scudamore.
'It is no matter as now: these verses are not of his. Prithee, hearken:
'I carry with, me, Lord, a foolish fool, That still his cap upon my head would place. I dare not slay him, he will not to school, And still he shakes his bauble in my face.
'I seize him, Lord, and bring him to thy door; Bound on thine altar-threshold him I lay. He weepeth; did I heed, he would implore; And still he cries alack and Well-a-Day!
'If thou wouldst take him in and make him wise, I think he might be taught to serve thee well; If not, slay him, nor heed his foolish cries, He's but a fool that mocks and rings a bell.'
Something in the lines appeared to strike Scudamore.
'I thank you, sir,' he said. 'Might I put you to the trouble, I would request that you would write out the verses for me, that I may study their meaning at my leisure.'
Mr. Vaughan promised, and, after a little more conversation, took his leave.
Now, whether it was from anything he had said in particular, or that Scudamore had felt the general influence of the man, Dorothy could not tell, but from that visit she believed Rowland began to think more and to brood less. By and by he began to start questions of right and wrong, suppose cases, and ask Dorothy what she would do in such and such circumstances. With many cloudy relapses there was a suspicion of dawn, although a rainy one most likely, on his far horizon.
'Dost thou really believe, Dorothy,' he asked one day, 'that a man ever did love his enemy? Didst thou ever know one who did?'
'I cannot say I ever did,' returned Dorothy. 'I have however seen few that were enemies. But I am sure that had it not been possible, we should never have been commanded thereto.'
'The last time Dr. Bayly came to see me he read those words, and I thought within myself all the time of the only enemy I had, and tried to forgive him, but could not.'
'Had he then wronged thee so deeply?'
'I know not, indeed, what women call wronged--least of all what thou, who art not like other women, wouldst judge; but this thing seems to me strange--that when I look on thee, Dorothy, one moment it seems as if for thy sake I could forgive him anything--except that he slew me not outright, and the next that never can I forgive him even that wherein he never did me any wrong.'
'What! hatest thou then him that struck thee down in fair fight? Sure thou art of meaner soul than I judged thee. What man in battle-field hates his enemy, or thinks it less than enough to do his endeavour to slay him?'
'Know'st thou whom thou wouldst have me forgive? He who struck me down was thy friend, Richard Heywood.'
'Then he hath his mare again?' cried Dorothy, eagerly.
Rowland's face fell, and she knew that she had spoken heartlessly--knew also that, for all his protestations, Rowland yet cherished the love she had so plainly refused. But the same moment she knew something more.
For, by the side of Rowland, in her mind's eye, stood Henry Vaughan, as wise as Rowland was foolish, as accomplished and learned as Rowland was narrow and ignorant; but between them stood Richard, and she knew a something in her which was neither tenderness nor reverence, and yet included both. She rose in some confusion, and left the chamber.
This good came of it, that from that moment Scudamore was satisfied she loved Heywood, and, with much mortification, tried to accept his position. Slowly his health began to return, and slowly the deeper life that was at length to become his began to inform him.
Heartless and poverty-stricken as he had hitherto shown himself, the good in him was not so deeply buried under refuse as in many a better-seeming man. Sickness had awakened in him a sense of requirement--of need also, and loneliness, and dissatisfaction. He grew ashamed of himself and conscious of defilement. Something new began to rise above and condemn the old. There are who would say that the change was merely the mental condition resulting from and corresponding to physical weakness; that repentance, and the vision of the better which maketh shame, is but a mood, sickly as are the brain and nerves which generate it; but he who undergoes the experience believes he knows better, and denies neither the wild beasts nor the stars, because they roar and shine through the dark.
Mr. Vaughan came to see him again and again, and with the concurrence of Dr. Spott, prescribed for him. As the spring approached he grew able to leave his room. The ladies of the family had him to their parlours to pet and feed, but he was not now so easily to be injured by kindness as when he believed in his own merits.
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