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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER XVI. COLLOQUIES.

Donal Grant by George MacDonald

CHAPTER XVI. COLLOQUIES.

IN the evening Donal went to see Andrew Comin.

|Weel, hoo are ye gettin' on wi' the yerl?| asked the cobbler.

|You set me a good example of saying nothing about him,| answered Donal; |and I will follow it -- at least till I know more: I have scarce seen him yet.|

|That's right!| returned the cobbler with satisfaction. |I'm thinkin' ye'll be ane o' the feow 'at can rule their ane hoose -- that is, haud their ain tongues till the hoor for speech be come. Stick ye to that, my dear sir, an' mair i'll be weel nor in general is weel.|

|I'm come to ye for a bit o' help though; I want licht upon a queston 'at 's lang triblet me. -- What think ye? -- hoo far does the comman' laid upo' 's, as to warfare 'atween man an' man, reach? Are we never ta raise the han' to human bein', think ye?|

|Weel, I hae thoucht a heap aboot it, an' I daurna say 'at I'm jist absolute clear upo' the maitter. But there may be pairt clear whaur a' 's no clear; an' by what we un'erstan' we come the nearer to what we dinna un'erstan'. There's ae thing unco plain -- 'at we're on no accoont to return evil for evil: onybody 'at ca's himsel' a Christian maun un'erstan' that muckle. We're to gie no place to revenge, inside or oot. Therefore we're no to gie blow for blow. Gien a man hit ye, ye're to take it i' God's name. But whether things mayna come to a p'int whaurat ye're bu'n', still i' God's name, to defen' the life God has gien ye, I canna say -- I haena the licht to justifee me in denyin' 't. There maun surely, I hae said to mysel', be a time whan a man may hae to du what God dis sae aften -- mak use o' the strong han'! But it's clear he maunna do 't in rage -- that's ower near hate -- an' hate 's the deevil's ain. A man may, gien he live varra near the Lord, be whiles angry ohn sinned: but the wrath o' man worketh not the richteousness o' God; an' the wrath that rises i' the mids o' encoonter, is no like to be o' the natur o' divine wrath. To win at it, gien 't be possible, lat's consider the Lord -- hoo he did. There's no word o' him ever liftin' han' to protec' himsel'. The only thing like it was for ithers. To gar them lat his disciples alane -- maybe till they war like eneuch til himsel' no to rin, he pat oot mair nor his han' upo' them 'at cam to tak him: he strak them sair wi' the pooer itsel' 'at muvs a' airms. But no varra sair naither -- he but knockit them doon! -- jist to lat them ken they war to du as he bade them, an' lat his fowk be; -- an' maybe to lat them ken 'at gien he loot them tak him, it was no 'at he couldna hin'er them gien he likit. I canna help thinkin' we may stan' up for ither fowk. An' I'm no sayin' 'at we arena to defen' oorsels frae a set attack wi' design. -- But there's something o' mair importance yet nor kennin' the richt o' ony queston.|

|What can that be? What can be o' mair importance nor doin' richt i' the sicht o' God?| said Donal.

|Bein' richt wi' the varra thoucht o' God, sae 'at we canna mistak, but maun ken jist what he wad hae dune. That's the big Richt, the mother o' a' the lave o' the richts. That's to be as the maister was. Onygait, whatever we du, it maun be sic as to be dune, an' it maun be dune i' the name o' God; whan we du naething we maun du that naething i' the name o' God. A body may weel say, 'O Lord, thoo hasna latten me see what I oucht to du, sae I'll du naething!' Gien a man ought to defen' himsel', but disna du 't, 'cause he thinks God wadna hae him du 't, wull God lea' him oondefent for that? Or gien a body stan's up i' the name o' God, an' fronts an airmy o' enemies, div ye think God 'ill forsake him 'cause he 's made a mistak? Whatever's dune wantin' faith maun be sin -- it canna help it; whatever's dune in faith canna be sin, though it may be a mistak. Only latna a man tak presumption for faith! that's a fearsome mistak, for it's jist the opposite.|

|I thank ye,| said Donal. |I'll consider wi' my best endeevour what ye hae said.|

|But o' a' things,| resumed the cobbler, |luik 'at ye lo'e fairplay. Fairplay 's a won'erfu' word -- a gran' thing constantly lost sicht o'. Man, I hae been tryin' to win at the duin' o' the richt this mony a year, but I daurna yet lat mysel' ac' upo' the spur o' the moment whaur my ain enterest 's concernt: my ain side micht yet blin' me to the ither man's side o' the business. Onybody can un'erstan' his ain richt, but it taks trible an' thoucht to un'erstan' what anither coonts his richt. Twa richts canna weel clash. It's a wrang an' a richt, or pairt wrang an' a pairt richt 'at clashes.|

|Gien a'body did that, I doobt there wad be feow fortins made!| said Donal.

|Aboot that I canna say, no kennin'; I daurna discover a law whaur I haena knowledge! But this same fairplay lies, alang wi' love, at the varra rute and f'undation o' the universe. The theologians had a glimmer o' the fac' whan they made sae muckle o' justice, only their justice is sic a meeserable sma' bit plaister eemage o' justice, 'at it maist gars an honest body lauch. They seem to me like shepherds 'at rive doon the door-posts, an' syne block up the door wi' them.|

Donal told him of the quarrel he had had with lord Forgue, and asked him whether he thought he had done right.

|Weel,| answered the cobbler, |I'm as far frae blamin' you as I am frae justifeein' the yoong lord.|

|He seems to me a fine kin' o' a lad,| said Donal, |though some owerbeirin'.|

|The likes o' him are mair to be excused for that nor ither fowk, for they hae great disadvantages i' the position an' the upbringin'. It's no easy for him 'at's broucht up a lord to believe he's jist ane wi' the lave.|

Donal went for a stroll through the town, and met the minister, but he took no notice of him. He was greatly annoyed at the march which he said the fellow had stolen upon him, and regarded him as one who had taken an unfair advantage of him. But he had little influence at the castle. The earl never by any chance went to church. His niece, lady Arctura, did, however, and held the minister for an authority at things spiritual -- one of whom living water was to be had without money and without price. But what she counted spiritual things were very common earthly stuff, and for the water, it was but stagnant water from the ditches of a sham theology. Only what was a poor girl to do who did not know how to feed herself, but apply to one who pretended to be able to feed others? How was she to know that he could not even feed himself? Out of many a difficulty she thought he helped her -- only the difficulty would presently clasp her again, and she must deal with it as she best could, until a new one made her forget it, and go to the minister, or rather to his daughter, again. She was one of those who feel the need of some help to live -- some upholding that is not of themselves, but who, through the stupidity of teachers unconsciously false, -- men so unfit that they do not know they are unfit, direct their efforts, first towards having correct notions, then to work up the feelings that belong to those notions. She was an honest girl so far as she had been taught -- perhaps not so far as she might have been without having been taught. How was she to think aright with scarce a glimmer of God's truth? How was she to please God, as she called it, who thought of him in a way repulsive to every loving soul? How was she to be accepted of God, who did not accept her own neighbour, but looked down, without knowing it, upon so many of her fellow-creatures? How should such a one either enjoy or recommend her religion? It would have been the worse for her if she had enjoyed it -- the worse for others if she had recommended it! Religion is simply the way home to the Father. There was little of the path in her religion except the difficulty of it. The true way is difficult enough because of our unchildlikeness -- uphill, steep, and difficult, but there is fresh life on every surmounted height, a purer air gained, ever more life for more climbing. But the path that is not the true one is not therefore easy. Up hill is hard walking, but through a bog is worse. Those who seek God with their faces not even turned towards him, who, instead of beholding the Father in the Son, take the stupidest opinions concerning him and his ways from other men -- what should they do but go wandering on dark mountains, spending their strength in avoiding precipices and getting out of bogs, mourning and sighing over their sins instead of leaving them behind and fleeing to the Father, whom to know is eternal life. Did they but set themselves to find out what Christ knew and meant and commanded, and then to do it, they would soon forget their false teachers. But alas! they go on bowing before long-faced, big-worded authority -- the more fatally when it is embodied in a good man who, himself a victim to faith in men, sees the Son of God only through the theories of others, and not with the sight of his own spiritual eyes.

Donal had not yet seen the lady. He neither ate, sat, nor held intercourse with the family. Away from Davie, he spent his time in his tower chamber, or out of doors. All the grounds were open to him except a walled garden on the south-eastern slope, looking towards the sea, which the earl kept for himself, though he rarely walked in it. On the side of the hill away from the town, was a large park reaching down to the river, and stretching a long way up its bank -- with fine trees, and glorious outlooks to the sea in one direction, and to the mountains in the other. Here Donal would often wander, now with a book, now with Davie. The boy's presence was rarely an interruption to his thoughts when he wanted to think. Sometimes he would thrown himself on the grass and read aloud; then Davie would throw himself beside him, and let the words he could not understand flow over him in a spiritual cataract. On the river was a boat, and though at first he was awkward enough in the use of the oars, he was soon able to enjoy thoroughly a row up or down the stream, especially in the twilight.

He was alone with his book under a beech-tree on a steep slope to the river, the day after his affair with lord Forgue: reading aloud, he did not hear the approach of his lordship.

|Mr. Grant,| he said, |if you will say you are sorry you threw me from my horse, I will say I am sorry I struck you.|

|I am very sorry,| said Donal, rising, |that it was necessary to throw you from your horse; and perhaps your lordship may remember that you struck me before I did so.|

|That has nothing to do with it. I propose an accommodation, or compromise, or what you choose to call it: if you will do the one, I will do the other.|

|What I think I ought to do, my lord, I do without bargaining. I am not sorry I threw you from your horse, and to say so would be to lie.|

|Of course everybody thinks himself in the right!| said his lordship with a small sneer.

|It does not follow that no one is ever in the right!| returned Donal. |Does your lordship think you were in the right -- either towards me or the poor animal who could not obey you because he was in torture?|

|I don't say I do.|

|Then everybody does not think himself in the right! I take your lordship's admission as an apology.|

|By no means: when I make an apology, I will do it; I will not sneak out of it.|

He was evidently at strife with himself: he knew he was wrong, but could not yet bring himself to say so. It is one of the poorest of human weaknesses that a man should be ashamed of saying he has done wrong, instead of so ashamed of having done wrong that he cannot rest till he has said so; for the shame cleaves fast until the confession removes it.

Forgue walked away a step or two, and stood with his back to Donal, poking the point of his stick into the grass. All at once he turned and said:

|I will apologize if you will tell me one thing.|

|I will tell you whether you apologize or not,| said Donal. |I have never asked you to apologize.|

|Tell me then why you did not return either of my blows yesterday.|

|I should like to know why you ask -- but I will answer you: simply because to do so would have been to disobey my master.|

|That's a sort of thing I don't understand. But I only wanted to know it was not cowardice; I could not make an apology to a coward.|

|If I were a coward, you would owe me an apology all the same, and he is a poor creature who will not pay his debts. But I hope it is not necessary I should either thrash or insult your lordship to convince you I fear you no more than that blackbird there!|

Forgue gave a little laugh. A moment's pause followed. Then he held out his hand, but in a half-hesitating, almost sheepish way:

|Well, well! shake hands,| he said.

|No, my lord,| returned Donal. |I bear your lordship not the slightest ill-will, but I will shake hands with no one in a half-hearted way, and no other way is possible while you are uncertain whether I am a coward or not.|

So saying, he threw himself again upon the grass, and lord Forgue walked away, offended afresh.

The next morning he came into the school-room where Donal sat at lessons with Davie. He had a book in his hand.

|Mr. Grant,| he said, |will you help me with this passage in Xenophon?|

|With all my heart,| answered Donal, and in a few moments had him out of his difficulty.

But instead of going, his lordship sat down a little way off, and went on with his reading -- sat until master and pupil went out, and left him sitting there. The next morning he came with a fresh request, and Donal found occasion to approve warmly of a translation he proposed. From that time he came almost every morning. He was no great scholar, but with the prospect of an English university before him, thought it better to read a little.

The housekeeper at the castle was a good woman, and very kind to Donal, feeling perhaps that he fell to her care the more that he was by birth of her own class; for it was said in the castle, |the tutor makes no pretence to being a gentleman.| Whether he was the more or the less of one on that account, I leave my reader to judge according to his capability. Sometimes when his dinner was served, mistress Brookes would herself appear, to ensure proper attention to him, and would sit down and talk to him while he ate, ready to rise and serve him if necessary. Their early days had had something in common, though she came from the southern highlands of green hills and more sheep. She gave him some rather needful information about the family; and he soon perceived that there would have been less peace in the house but for her good temper and good sense.

Lady Arctura was the daughter of the last lord Morven, and left sole heir to the property; Forgue and his brother Davie were the sons of the present earl. The present lord was the brother of the last, and had lived with him for some years before he succeeded. He was a man of peculiar and studious habits; nobody ever seemed to take to him; and since his wife's death, his health had been precarious. Though a strange man, he was a just if not generous master. His brother had left him guardian to lady Arctura, and he had lived in the castle as before. His wife was a very lovely, but delicate woman, and latterly all but confined to her room. Since her death a great change had passed upon her husband. Certainly his behaviour was sometimes hard to understand.

|He never gangs to the kirk -- no ance in a twalmonth!| said Mrs. Brookes. |Fowk sud be dacent, an' wha ever h'ard o' dacent fowk 'at didna gang to the kirk ance o' the Sabbath! I dinna haud wi' gaein' twise mysel': ye hae na time to read yer ain chapters gien ye do that. But the man's a weel behavet man, sae far as ye see, naither sayin' nor doin' the thing he shouldna: what he may think, wha's to say! the mair ten'er conscience coonts itsel' the waur sinner; an' I'm no gaein' to think what I canna ken! There's some 'at says he led a gey lowse kin' o' a life afore he cam to bide wi' the auld yerl; he was wi' the airmy i' furreign pairts, they say; but aboot that I ken naething. The auld yerl was something o' a sanct himsel', rist the banes o' 'im! We're no the jeedges o' the leevin' ony mair nor o' the deid! But I maun awa' to luik efter things; a minute's an hoor lost wi' thae fule lasses. Ye're a freen' o' An'rew Comin's, they tell me, sir: I dinna ken what to do wi' 's lass, she's that upsettin'! Ye wad think she was ane o' the faimily whiles; an' ither whiles she 's that silly!|

|I'm sorry to hear it!| said Donal. |Her grandfather and grandmother are the best of good people.|

|I daursay! But there's jist what I hae seen: them 'at 's broucht up their ain weel eneuch, their son's bairn they'll jist lat gang. Aither they're tired o' the thing, or they think they're safe. They hae lippent til yoong Eppy a heap ower muckle. But I'm naither a prophet nor the son o' a prophet, as the minister said last Sunday -- an' said well, honest man! for it's the plain trowth: he's no ane o' the major nor yet the minor anes! But haud him oot o' the pu'pit an' he dis no that ill. His dochter 's no an ill lass aither, an' a great freen' o' my leddy's. But I'm clean ashamed o' mysel' to gang on this gait. Hae ye dune wi' yer denner, Mr. Grant? -- Weel, I'll jist sen' to clear awa', an' lat ye til yer lessons.|

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