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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : CHAPTER XV. HORSE AND MAN.

Donal Grant by George MacDonald


DURING the first day and the next, Donal did not even come in sight of any other of the family; but on the third day, after their short early school -- for he seldom let Davie work till he was tired, and never after -- going with him through the stable-yard, they came upon lord Forgue as he mounted his horse -- a nervous, fiery, thin-skinned thoroughbred. The moment his master was on him, he began to back and rear. Forgue gave him a cut with his whip. He went wild, plunging and dancing and kicking. The young lord was a horseman in the sense of having a good seat; but he knew little about horses; they were to him creatures to be compelled, not friends with whom to hold sweet concert. He had not learned that to rule ill is worse than to obey ill. Kings may be worse than it is in the power of any subject to be. As he was raising his arm for a second useless, cruel, and dangerous blow, Donal darted to the horse's head.

|You mustn't do that, my lord!| he said. |You'll drive him mad.|

But the worst part of Forgue's nature was uppermost, in his rage all the vices of his family rushed to the top. He looked down on Donal with a fury checked only by contempt.

|Keep off,| he said, |or it will be the worse for you. What do you know about horses?|

|Enough to know that you are not fair to him. I will not let you strike the poor animal. Just look at this water-chain!|

|Hold your tongue, and stand away, or, by -- |

|Ye winna fricht me, sir,| said Donal, whose English would, for years, upon any excitement, turn cowardly and run away, leaving his mother-tongue to bear the brunt, | -- I'm no timorsome.|

Forgue brought down his whip with a great stinging blow upon Donal's shoulder and back. The fierce blood of the highland Celt rushed to his brain, and had not the man in him held by God and trampled on the devil, there might then have been miserable work. But though he clenched his teeth, he fettered his hands, and ruled his tongue, and the Master of men was master still.

|My lord,| he said, after one instant's thunderous silence, |there's that i' me wad think as little o' throttlin' ye as ye du o' ill-usin' yer puir beast. But I'm no gaein' to drop his quarrel, an' tak up my ain: that wad be cooardly.| Here he patted the creature's neck, and recovering his composure and his English, went on. |I tell you, my lord, the curb-chain is too tight! The animal is suffering as you can have no conception of, or you would pity him.|

|Let him go,| cried Forgue, |or I will make you.|

He raised his whip again, the more enraged that the groom stood looking on with his mouth open.

|I tell your lordship,| said Donal, |it is my turn to strike; and if you hit the animal again before that chain is slackened, I will pitch you out of the saddle.|

For answer Forgue struck the horse over the head. The same moment he was on the ground; Donal had taken him by the leg and thrown him off. He was not horseman enough to keep his hold of the reins, and Donal led the horse a little way off, and left him to get up in safety. The poor animal was pouring with sweat, shivering and trembling, yet throwing his head back every moment. Donal could scarcely undo the chain; it was twisted -- his lordship had fastened it himself -- and sharp edges pressed his jaw at the least touch of the rein. He had not yet rehooked it, when Forgue was upon him with a second blow of his whip. The horse was scared afresh at the sound, and it was all he could do to hold him, but he succeeded at length in calming him. When he looked about him, Forgue was gone. He led the horse into the stable, put him in his stall, and proceeded to unsaddle him. Then first he was re-aware of the presence of Davie. The boy was stamping -- with fierce eyes and white face -- choking with silent rage.

|Davie, my child!| said Donal, and Davie recovered his power of speech.

|I'll go and tell my father!| he said, and made for the stable door.

|Which of us are you going to tell upon?| asked Donal with a smile.

|Percy, of course!| he replied, almost with a scream. |You are a good man, Mr. Grant, and he is a bad fellow. My father will give it him well. He doesn't often -- but oh, can't he just! To dare to strike you! I'll go to him at once, whether he's in bed or not!|

|No, you won't, my boy! Listen to me. Some people think it's a disgrace to be struck: I think it a disgrace to strike. I have a right over your brother by that blow, and I mean to keep it -- for his good. You didn't think I was afraid of him?|

|No, no; anybody could see you weren't a bit afraid of him. I would have struck him again if he had killed me for it!|

|I don't doubt you would. But when you understand, you will not be so ready to strike. I could have killed your brother more easily than held his horse. You don't know how strong I am, or what a blow of my fist would be to a delicate fellow like that. I hope his fall has not hurt him.|

|I hope it has -- a little, I mean, only a little,| said the boy, looking in the face of his tutor. |But tell me why you did not strike him. It would be good for him to be well beaten.|

|It will, I hope, be better for him to be well forgiven: he will be ashamed of himself the sooner, I think. But why I did not strike him was, that I am not my own master.|

|But my father, I am sure, would not have been angry with you. He would have said you had a right to do it.|

|Perhaps; but the earl is not the master I mean.|

|Who is, then?|

|Jesus Christ.|

|O -- oh!|

|He says I must not return evil for evil, a blow for a blow. I don't mind what people say about it: he would not have me disgrace myself! He never even threatened those that struck him.|

|But he wasn't a man, you know!|

|Not a man! What was he then?|

|He was God, you know.|

|And isn't God a man -- and ever so much more than a man?|

The boy made no answer, and Donal went on.

|Do you think God would have his child do anything disgraceful? Why, Davie, you don't know your own Father! What God wants of us is to be down-right honest, and do what he tells us without fear.|

Davie was silent. His conscience reproved him, as the conscience of a true-hearted boy will reprove him at the very mention of the name of God, until he sets himself consciously to do his will. Donal said no more, and they went for their walk.

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