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Image Map : Christian Books : CHAPTER V. THE COBBLER.

Donal Grant by George MacDonald


AT the end of the street he came to a low-arched gateway in the middle of a poor-looking house. Within it sat a little bowed man, cobbling diligently at a boot. The sun had left behind him in the west a heap of golden refuse, and cuttings of rose and purple, which shone right in at the archway, and let him see to work. Here was the very man for Donal! A respectable shoemaker would have disdained to patch up the shoes he carried -- especially as the owner was in so much need of them.

|It's a bonny nicht,| he said.

|Ye may weel mak the remark, sir!| replied the cobbler without looking up, for a critical stitch occupied him. |It's a balmy nicht.|

|That's raither a bonny word to put til't!| returned Donal. |There's a kin' o' an air aboot the place I wad hardly hae thoucht balmy! But troth it's no the fau't o' the nicht!|

|Ye're richt there also,| returned the cobbler -- his use of the conjunction impressing Donal. |Still, the weather has to du wi' the smell -- wi' the mair or less o' 't, that is. It comes frae a tanneree nearby. It's no an ill smell to them 'at's used til't; and ye wad hardly believe me, sir, but I smell the clover throuw 't. Maybe I'm preejudized, seein' but for the tan-pits I couldna weel drive my trade; but sittin' here frae mornin' to nicht, I get a kin' o' a habit o' luikin' oot for my blessin's. To recognize an auld blessin' 's 'maist better nor to get a new ane. A pair o' shune weel cobblet 's whiles full better nor a new pair.|

|They are that,| said Donal; |but I dinna jist see hoo yer seemile applies.|

|Isna gettin' on a pair o' auld weel-kent an' weel men'it shune, 'at winna nip yer feet nor yet shochle, like waukin' up til a blessin' ye hae been haein' for years, only ye didna ken 't for ane?|

As he spoke, the cobbler lifted a little wizened face and a pair of twinkling eyes to those of the student, revealing a soul as original as his own. He was one of the inwardly inseparable, outwardly far divided company of Christian philosophers, among whom individuality as well as patience is free to work its perfect work. In that glance Donal saw a ripe soul looking out of its tent door, ready to rush into the sunshine of the new life.

He stood for a moment lost in eternal regard of the man. He seemed to have known him for ages. The cobbler looked up again.

|Ye'll be wantin' a han' frae me i' my ain line, I'm thinkin'!| he said, with a kindly nod towards Donal's shoeless feet.

|Sma' doobt!| returned Donal. |I had scarce startit, but was ower far to gang back, whan the sole o' ae shue cam aff, an' I had to tramp it wi' baith my ain.|

|An' ye thankit the Lord for the auld blessin' o' bein' born an' broucht up wi' soles o' yer ain!|

|To tell the trowth,| answered Donal, |I hae sae mony things to be thankfu' for, it's but sma' won'er I forget mony ane o' them. But noo, an' I thank ye for the exhortation, the Lord's name be praist 'at he gae me feet fit for gangin' upo'!|

He took his shoes from his back, and untying the string that bound them, presented the ailing one to the cobbler.

|That's what we may ca' deith!| remarked the cobbler, slowly turning the invalided shoe.

|Ay, deith it is,| answered Donal; |it's a sair divorce o' sole an' body.|

|It's a some auld-farrand joke,| said the cobbler, |but the fun intil a thing doesna weir oot ony mair nor the poetry or the trowth intil't.|

|Who will say there was no providence in the loss of my shoe-sole!| remarked Donal to himself. |Here I am with a friend already!|

The cobbler was submitting the shoes, first the sickly one, now the sound one, to a thorough scrutiny.

|Ye dinna think them worth men'in', I doobt!| said Donal, with a touch of anxiety in his tone.

|I never thoucht that whaur the leather wad haud the steik,| replied the cobbler. |But whiles, I confess, I'm jist a wheen tribled to ken hoo to chairge for my wark. It's no barely to consider the time it'll tak me to cloot a pair, but what the weirer 's like to git oot o' them. I canna tak mair nor the job 'ill be worth to the weirer. An' yet the waur the shune, an' the less to be made o' them, the mair time they tak to mak them worth onything ava'!|

|Surely ye oucht to be paid in proportion to your labour.|

|I' that case I wad whiles hae to say til a puir body 'at hadna anither pair i' the warl', 'at her ae pair o' shune wasna worth men'in'; an' that wad be a hertbrak, an' sair feet forby, to sic as couldna, like yersel', sir, gang upo' the Lord's ain shune.|

|But hoo mak ye a livin' that w'y?| suggested Donal.

|Hoots, the maister o' the trade sees to my wauges!|

|An' wha may he be?| asked Donal, well foreseeing the answer.

|He was never cobbler himsel', but he was ance carpenter; an' noo he's liftit up to be heid o' a' the trades. An' there's ae thing he canna bide, an' that's close parin'.|

He stopped. But Donal held his peace, waiting; and he went on.

|To them 'at maks little, for reasons good, by their neebour, he gies the better wauges whan they gang hame. To them 'at maks a' 'at they can, he says, 'Ye helpit yersel'; help awa'; ye hae yer reward. Only comena near me, for I canna bide ye'. -- But aboot thae shune o' yours, I dinna weel ken! They're weel eneuch worth duin' the best I can for them; but the morn's Sunday, an' what hae ye to put on?|

|Naething -- till my kist comes; an' that, I doobt, winna be afore Monday, or maybe the day efter.|

|An' ye winna be able to gang to the kirk!|

|I'm no partic'lar aboot gaein' to the kirk; but gien I wantit to gang, or gien I thoucht I was b'un' to gang, think ye I wad bide at hame 'cause I hadna shune to gang in! Wad I fancy the Lord affrontit wi' the bare feet he made himsel'!|

The cobbler caught up the worst shoe and began upon it at once.

|Ye s' hae't, sir,| he said, |gien I sit a' nicht at it! The ane 'll du till Monday. Ye s' hae't afore kirk-time, but ye maun come intil the hoose to get it, for the fowk wud be scunnert to see me workin' upo' the Sabbath-day. They dinna un'erstan' 'at the Maister works Sunday an' Setterday -- an' his Father as weel!|

|Ye dinna think, than, there's onything wrang in men'in' a pair o' shune on the Sabbath-day?|

|Wrang! -- in obeyin' my Maister, whase is the day, as weel's a' the days? They wad fain tak it frae the Son o' Man, wha's the lord o' 't, but they canna!|

He looked up over the old shoe with eyes that flashed.

|But then -- excuse me,| said Donal, | -- why shouldna ye haud yer face til 't, an' work openly, i' the name o' God?|

|We're telt naither to du oor gude warks afore men to be seen o' them, nor yet to cast oor pearls afore swine. I coont cobblin' your shoes, sir, a far better wark nor gaein' to the kirk, an' I wadna hae't seen o' men. Gien I war warkin' for poverty, it wad be anither thing.|

This last Donal did not understand, but learned afterwards what the cobbler meant: the day being for rest, the next duty to helping another was to rest himself. To work for fear of starving would be to distrust the Father, and act as if man lived by bread alone.

|Whan I think o' 't,| he resumed after a pause, |bein' Sunday, I'll tak them hame to ye. Whaur wull ye be?|

|That's what I wad fain hae ye tell me,| answered Donal. |I had thoucht to put up at the Morven Airms, but there's something I dinna like aboot the lan'lord. Ken ye ony dacent, clean place, whaur they wad gie me a room to mysel', an' no seek mair nor I could pey them?|

|We hae a bit roomie oorsel's,| said the cobbler, |at the service o' ony dacent wayfarin' man that can stan' the smell, an' put up wi' oor w'ys. For peyment, ye can pey what ye think it's worth. We're never varra partic'lar.|

|I tak yer offer wi' thankfu'ness,| answered Donal.

|Weel, gang ye in at that door jist 'afore ye, an' ye'll see the guidwife -- there's nane ither til see. I wad gang wi' ye mysel', but I canna, wi' this shue o' yours to turn intil a Sunday ane!|

Donal went to the door indicated. It stood wide open; for while the cobbler sat outside at his work, his wife would never shut the door. He knocked, but there came no answer.

|She's some dull o' hearin',| said the cobbler, and called her by his own name for her.

|Doory! Doory!| he said.

|She canna be that deif gien she hears ye!| said Donal; for he spoke hardly louder than usual.

|Whan God gies you a wife, may she be ane to hear yer lichtest word!| answered the cobbler.

Sure enough, he had scarcely finished the sentence, when Doory appeared at the door.

|Did ye cry, guidman?| she said.

|Na, Doory: I canna say I cried; but I spak, an' ye, as is yer custom, hearkent til my word! -- Here's a believin' lad -- I'm thinkin' he maun be a gentleman, but I'm no sure; it's hard for a cobbler to ken a gentleman 'at comes til him wantin' shune; but he may be a gentleman for a' that, an' there's nae hurry to ken. He's welcome to me, gien he be welcome to you. Can ye gie him a nicht's lodgin'?|

|Weel that! an' wi' a' my hert!| said Doory. |He's welcome to what we hae.|

Turning, she led the way into the house.

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