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Image Map : Christian Books : CHAPTER VII. A SUNDAY.

Donal Grant by George MacDonald


NOTWITHSTANDING his weariness Donal woke early, for he had slept thoroughly. He rose and dressed himself, drew aside the little curtain that shrouded the window, and looked out. It was a lovely morning. His prospect was the curious old main street of the town. The sun that had shone into it was now shining from the other side, but not a shadow of living creature fell upon the rough stones! Yes -- there was a cat shooting across them like the culprit he probably was! If there was a garden to the house, he would go and read in the fresh morning air!

He stole softly through the outer room, and down the stair; found the back-door and a water-butt; then a garden consisting of two or three plots of flowers well cared for; and ended his discoveries with a seat surrounded and almost canopied with honeysuckle, where doubtless the cobbler sometimes smoked his pipe! |Why does he not work here rather than in the archway?| thought Donal. But, dearly as he loved flowers and light and the free air of the garden, the old cobbler loved the faces of his kind better. His prayer for forty years had been to be made like his master; and if that prayer was not answered, how was it that, every year he lived, he found himself loving the faces of his fellows more and more? Ever as they passed, instead of interfering with his contemplations, they gave him more and more to think: were these faces, he asked, the symbols of a celestial language in which God talked to him?

Donal sat down, and took his Greek Testament from his pocket. But all at once, brilliant as was the sun, the light of his life went out, and the vision rose of the gray quarry, and the girl turning from him in the wan moonlight. Then swift as thought followed the vision of the women weeping about the forsaken tomb; and with his risen Lord he rose also -- into a region far |above the smoke and stir of this dim spot,| a region where life is good even with its sorrow. The man who sees his disappointment beneath him, is more blessed than he who rejoices in fruition. Then prayer awoke, and in the light of that morning of peace he drew nigh the living one, and knew him as the source of his being. Weary with blessedness he leaned against the shadowing honeysuckle, gave a great sigh of content, smiled, wiped his eyes, and was ready for the day and what it should bring. But the bliss went not yet; he sat for a while in the joy of conscious loss in the higher life. With his meditations and feelings mingled now and then a few muffled blows of the cobbler's hammer: he was once more at work on his disabled shoe.

|Here is a true man!| he thought, | -- a Godlike helper of his fellow!|

When the hammer ceased, the cobbler was stitching; when Donal ceased thinking, he went on feeling. Again and again came a little roll of the cobbler's drum, giving glory to God by doing his will: the sweetest and most acceptable music is that which rises from work a doing; its incense ascends as from the river in its flowing, from the wind in its blowing, from the grass in its growing. All at once he heard the voices of two women in the next garden, close behind him, talking together.

|Eh,| said one, |there's that godless cratur, An'rew Comin, at his wark again upo' the Sawbath mornin'!|

|Ay, lass,| answered the other, |I hear him! Eh, but it 'll be an ill day for him whan he has to appear afore the jeedge o' a'! He winna hae his comman'ments broken that gait!|

|Troth, na!| returned the former; |it'll be a sair sattlin day for him!|

Donal rose, and looking about him, saw two decent, elderly women on the other side of the low stone wall. He was approaching them with the request on his lips to know which of the Lord's commandments they supposed the cobbler to be breaking, when, seeing that he must have overheard them, they turned their backs and walked away.

And now his hostess, having discovered he was in the garden, came to call him to breakfast -- the simplest of meals -- porridge, with a cup of tea after it because it was Sunday, and there was danger of sleepiness at the kirk.

|Yer shune 's waitin' ye, sir,| said the cobbler. |Ye'll fin' them a better job nor ye expeckit. They're a better job, onygait, nor I expeckit!|

Donal made haste to put them on, and felt dressed for the Sunday.

|Are ye gaein' to the kirk the day, Anerew?| asked the old woman, adding, as she turned to their guest, |My man's raither pecooliar aboot gaein' to the kirk! Some days he'll gang three times, an' some days he winna gang ance! -- He kens himsel' what for!| she added with a smile, whose sweetness confessed that, whatever was the reason, it was to her the best in the world.

|Ay, I'm gaein' the day: I want to gang wi' oor new freen',| he answered.

|I'll tak him gien ye dinna care to gang,| rejoined his wife.

|Ow, I'll gang!| he persisted. |It'll gie's something to talk aboot, an' sae ken ane anither better, an' maybe come a bit nearer ane anither, an' sae a bit nearer the maister. That's what we're here for -- comin' an' gaein'.|

|As ye please, Anerew! What's richt to you's aye richt to me. O' my ain sel' I wad be doobtfu' o' sic a rizzon for gaein' to the kirk -- to get something to speyk aboot.|

|It's a gude rizzon whaur ye haena a better,| he answered. |It's aften I get at the kirk naething but what angers me -- lees an' lees agen my Lord an' my God. But whan there's ane to talk it ower wi', ane 'at has some care for God as weel's for himsel', there's some guid sure to come oot o' 't -- some revelation o' the real richteousness -- no what fowk 'at gangs by the ministers ca's richteousness. -- Is yer shune comfortable to yer feet, sir?|

|Ay, that they are! an' I thank ye: they're full better nor new.|

|Weel, we winna hae worship this mornin'; whan ye gang to the kirk it's like aitin' mair nor's guid for ye.|

|Hoots, Anerew! ye dinna think a body can hae ower muckle o' the word!| said his wife, anxious as to the impression he might make on Donal.

|Ow na, gien a body tak it in, an' disgeist it! But it's no a bonny thing to hae the word stickin' about yer moo', an' baggin' oot yer pooches, no to say lyin' cauld upo' yer stamack, an' it for the life o' men. The less ye tak abune what ye put in practice the better; an' gien the thing said hae naething to du wi' practice, the less ye heed it the better. -- Gien ye hae dune yer brakfast, sir, we'll gang -- no 'at it's freely kirk-time yet, but the Sabbath 's 'maist the only day I get a bit o' a walk, an' gien ye hae nae objection til a turn aboot the Lord's muckle hoose afore we gang intil his little ane -- we ca' 't his, but I doobt it -- I'll be ready in a meenute.|

Donal willingly agreed, and the cobbler, already clothed in part of his Sunday best, a pair of corduroy trousers of a mouse colour, having indued an ancient tail-coat of blue with gilt buttons, they set out together; and for their conversation, it was just the same as it would have been any other day: where every day is not the Lord's, the Sunday is his least of all.

They left the town, and were soon walking in meadows through which ran a clear river, shining and speedy in the morning sun. Its banks were largely used for bleaching, and the long lines of white in the lovely green of the natural grass were pleasant both to eye and mind. All about, the rooks were feeding in peace, knowing their freedom that day from the persecution to which, like all other doers of good, they are in general exposed. Beyond the stream lay a level plain stretching towards the sea, divided into numberless fields, and dotted with farmhouses and hamlets. On the side where the friends were walking, the ground was more broken, rising in places into small hills, many of them wooded. Half a mile away was one of a conical shape, on whose top towered a castle. Old and gray and sullen, it lifted itself from the foliage around it like a great rock from a summer sea, and stood out against the clear blue sky of the June morning. The hill was covered with wood, mostly rather young, but at the bottom were some ancient firs and beeches. At the top, round the base of the castle, the trees were chiefly delicate birches with moonlight skin, and feathery larches not thriving over well.

|What ca' they yon castel?| questioned Donal. |It maun be a place o' some importance!|

|They maistly ca' 't jist the castel,| answered the cobbler. |Its auld name 's Graham's Grip. It's lord Morven's place, an' they ca' 't Castel Graham: the faimily-name 's Graham, ye ken. They ca, themsel's Graeme-Graham -- jist twa w'ys o' spellin' the name putten thegither. The last lord, no upo' the main brainch, they tell me, spelled his name wi' the diphthong, an' wasna willin' to gie't up a'thegither -- sae tuik the twa o' them. You 's whaur yoong Eppy 's at service. -- An' that min's me, sir, ye haena tellt me yet what kin' o' a place ye wad hae yersel.' It's no 'at a puir body like me can help, but it's aye weel to lat fowk ken what ye're efter. A word gangs speirin' lang efter it's oot o' sicht -- an' the answer may come frae far. The Lord whiles brings aboot things i' the maist oonlikly fashion.|

|I'm ready for onything I'm fit to do,| said Donal; |but I hae had what's ca'd a good education -- though I hae learned mair frae my ain needs than frae a' my buiks; sae i wad raither till the human than the earthly soil, takin' mair interest i' the schoolmaister's craps than i' the fairmer's.|

|Wad ye objec' to maister ane by himsel' -- or maybe twa?|

|Na, surely -- gien I saw mysel' fit.|

|Eppy mentiont last nicht 'at there was word aboot the castel o' a tutor for the yoongest. Hae ye ony w'y o' approachin' the place?|

|Not till the minister comes home,| answered Donal. |I have a letter to him.|

|He'll be back by the middle o' the week, I hear them say.|

|Can you tell me anything about the people at the castle?| asked Donal.

|I could,| answered Andrew; |but some things is better f'un' oot nor kenned 'afore han'. Ilka place has its ain shape, an' maist things has to hae some parin' to gar them fit. That's what I tell yoong Eppy -- mony 's the time!|

Here came a pause, and when Andrew spoke again, it seemed on a new line.

|Did it ever occur to ye, sir,| he said, |'at maybe deith micht be the first waukin' to some fowk?|

|It has occurrt to me,| answered Donal; |but mony things come intil a body's heid 'at he's no able to think oot! They maun lie an' bide their time.|

|Lat nane o' the lovers o' law an' letter perswaud ye the Lord wadna hae ye think -- though nane but him 'at obeys can think wi' safety. We maun do first the thing 'at we ken, an' syne we may think aboot the thing 'at we dinna ken. I fancy 'at whiles the Lord wadna say a thing jist no to stop fowk thinkin' aboot it. He was aye at gettin' them to mak use o' the can'le o' the Lord. It's my belief the main obstacles to the growth o' the kingdom are first the oonbelief o' believers, an' syne the w'y 'at they lay doon the law. 'Afore they hae learnt the rudimen's o' the trowth themsel's, they begin to lay the grievous burden o' their dullness an' ill-conceived notions o' holy things upo' the min's an' consciences o' their neebours, fain, ye wad think, to haud them frae growin' ony mair nor themsel's. Eh, man, but the Lord 's won'erfu'! Ye may daur an' daur, an' no come i' sicht o' 'im!|

The church stood a little way out of the town, in a churchyard overgrown with grass, which the wind blew like a field of corn. Many of the stones were out of sight in it. The church, a relic of old catholic days, rose out of it like one that had taken to growing and so got the better of his ills. They walked into the musty, dingy, brown-atmosphered house. The cobbler led the way to a humble place behind a pillar; there Doory was seated waiting them. The service was not so dreary to Donal as usual; the sermon had some thought in it; and his heart was drawn to a man who would say he did not understand.

|Yon was a fine discoorse,| remarked the cobbler as they went homeward.

Donal saw nothing fine in it, but his experience was not so wide as the cobbler's: to him the discourse had hinted many things which had not occurred to Donal.

Some people demand from the householder none but new things, others none but old; whereas we need in truth of all the sorts in his treasury.

|I haena a doobt it was a' richt an' as ye say, Anerew,| said his wife; |but for mysel' I could mak naither heid nor tail o' 't.|

|I saidna, Doory, it was a' richt,| returned her husband; |that would be to say a heap for onything human! but it was a guid honest sermon.|

|What was yon 'at he said aboot the mirracles no bein' teeps?| asked his wife.

|It was God's trowth 'at,| he said.|

|Gie me a share o' the same I beg o' ye, Anerew Comin.|

|What the man said was this -- 'at the sea 'at Peter gaed oot upo' wasna first an' foremost to be luikit upon as a teep o' the inward an' spiritual troubles o' the believer, still less o' the troubles o' the church o' Christ. The Lord deals wi' fac's nane the less 'at they canna help bein' teeps. Here was terrible fac's to Peter. Here was angry watter an' roarin' win'; here was danger an' fear: the man had to trust or gang doon. Gien the hoose be on fire we maun trust; gien the watter gang ower oor heids we maun trust; gien the horse rin awa', we maun trust. Him 'at canna trust in siclike conditions, I wadna gie a plack for ony ither kin' o' faith he may hae. God 's nae a mere thoucht i' the warl' o' thoucht, but a leevin' pooer in a' warl's alike. Him 'at gangs to God wi' a sair heid 'ill the suner gang til 'im wi' a sair hert; an' them 'at thinksna he cares for the pains o' their bodies 'ill ill believe he cares for the doobts an' perplexities o' their inquirin' speerits. To my min' he spak the best o' sense!|

|I didna hear him say onything like that!| said Donal.

|Did ye no? Weel, I thoucht it cam frae him to me!|

|Maybe I wasna giein' the best heed,| said Donal. |But what ye say is as true as the sun. It stan's to rizzon.|

The day passed in pleasure and quiet. Donal had found another father and mother.

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