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Image Map : Christian Books : CHAPTER XXI. A FIRST MEETING.

Donal Grant by George MacDonald


HE took her hand, and felt it an honest one -- a safe, comfortable hand.

|My brother told me he had brought you,| she said. |I am glad to see you.|

|You are very kind,| said Donal. How did either of you know of my existence? A few minutes back, I was not aware of yours.|

Was it a rude utterance? He was silent a moment with the silence that promises speech, then added --

|Has it ever struck you how many born friends there are in the world who never meet -- persons to love each other at first sight, but who never in this world have that sight?|

|No,| returned Miss Graeme, with a merrier laugh than quite responded to the remark, |I certainly never had such a thought. I take the people that come, and never think of those who do not. But of course it must be so.|

|To be in the world is to have a great many brothers and sisters you do not know!| said Donal.

|My mother told me,| she rejoined, |of a man who had had so many wives and children that his son, whom she had met, positively did not know all his brothers and sisters.|

|I suspect,| said Donal, |we have to know our brothers and sisters.|

|I do not understand.|

|We have even got to feel a man is our brother the moment we see him,| pursued Donal, enhancing his former remark.

|That sounds alarming!| said Miss Graeme, with another laugh. |My little heart feels not large enough to receive so many.|

|The worst of it is,| continued Donal, who once started was not ready to draw rein, |that those who chiefly advocate this extension of the family bonds, begin by loving their own immediate relations less than anybody else. Extension with them means slackening -- as if any one could learn to love more by loving less, or go on to do better without doing well! He who loves his own little will not love others much.|

|But how can we love those who are nothing to us?| objected Miss Graeme.

|That would be impossible. The family relations are for the sake of developing a love rooted in a far deeper though less recognized relation. -- But I beg your pardon, Miss Graeme. Little Davie alone is my pupil, and I forget myself.|

|I am very glad to listen to you,| returned Miss Graeme. |I cannot say I am prepared to agree with you. But it is something, in this out-of-the-way corner, to hear talk from which it is even worth while to differ.|

|Ah, you can have that here if you will!|


|I mean talk from which you would probably differ. There is an old man in the town who can talk better than ever I heard man before. But he is a poor man, with a despised handicraft, and none heed him. No community recognizes its great men till they are gone.|

|Where is the use then of being great?| said Miss Graeme.

|To be great,| answered Donal, | -- to which the desire to be known of men is altogether destructive. To be great is to seem little in the eyes of men.|

Miss Graeme did not answer. She was not accustomed to consider things seriously. A good girl in a certain true sense, she had never yet seen that she had to be better, or indeed to be anything. But she was able to feel, though she was far from understanding him, that Donal was in earnest, and that was much. To recognize that a man means something, is a great step towards understanding him.

|What a lovely garden this is!| remarked Donal after the sequent pause. |I have never seen anything like it.|

|It is very old-fashioned,| she returned. |Do you not find it very stiff and formal?|

|Stately and precise, I should rather say.|

|I do not mean I can help liking it -- in a way.|

|Who could help liking it that took his feeling from the garden itself, not from what people said about it!|

|You cannot say it is like nature!|

|Yes; it is very like human nature. Man ought to learn of nature, but not to imitate nature. His work is, through the forms that Nature gives him, to express the idea or feeling that is in him. That is far more likely to produce things in harmony with nature, than the attempt to imitate nature upon the small human scale.|

|You are too much of a philosopher for me!| said Miss Graeme. |I daresay you are quite right, but I have never read anything about art, and cannot follow you.|

|You have probably read as much as I have. I am only talking out of what necessity, the necessity for understanding things, has made me think. One must get things brought together in one's thoughts, if only to be able to go on thinking.|

This too was beyond Miss Graeme. The silence again fell, and Donal let it lie, waiting for her to break it this time.

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