HE would gladly have told his friend the cobbler all about the strange occurrence; but he did not feel sure it would be right to carry a report of the house where he held a position of trust; and what made him doubtful was, that first he doubted whether the cobbler would consider it right. But he went to see him the next day, in the desire to be near the only man to whom it was possible he might tell what he had seen.
The moment he entered the room, where the cobbler as usual sat at work by his wife, he saw that something was the matter. But they welcomed him with their usual cordiality, nor was it many minutes before mistress Comin made him acquainted with the cause of their anxiety.
|We're jist a wee triblet, sir,| she said, |aboot Eppy!|
|I am very sorry,| said Donal, with a pang: he had thought things were going right with her. |What is the matter?|
|It's no sae easy to say!| returned the grandmother. |It may weel be only a fancy o' the auld fowk, but it seems to baith o' 's she has a w'y wi' her 'at disna come o' the richt. She'll be that meek as gien she thoucht naething at a' o' hersel', an' the next moment be angert at a word. She canna bide a syllable said 'at 's no correc' to the verra hair. It's as gien she dreidit waur 'ahint it, an' wud mairch straucht to the defence. I'm no makin' my meanin' that clear, I doobt; but ye'll ken 't for a' that!|
|I think I do,| said Donal. | -- I see nothing of her.|
|I wudna mak a won'er o' that, sir! She may weel haud oot o' your gait, feelin' rebukit 'afore ane 'at kens a' aboot her gaein's on wi' my lord!|
|I don't know how I should see her, though!| returned Donal.
|Didna she sweep oot the schoolroom first whan ye gaed, sir?|
|When I think of it -- yes.|
|Does she still that same?|
|I do not know. Understanding at what hour in the morning the room will be ready for me, I do not go to it sooner.|
|It's but the luik, an' the general cairriage o' the lassie!| said the old woman. |Gien we had onything to tak a haud o', we wad maybe think the less. True, she was aye some -- what ye micht ca' a bit cheengeable in her w'ys; but she was aye, whan she had the chance, unco' willin' to gie her faither there or mysel' a spark o' glaidness like. It pleased her to be pleasin' i' the eyes o' the auld fowk, though they war but her ain. But noo we maunna say a word til her. We hae nae business to luik til her for naething! No 'at she's aye like that; but it comes sae aft 'at at last we daur hardly open oor moo's for the fear o' hoo she'll tak it. Only a' the time it's mair as gien she was flingin' something frae her, something she didna like an' wud fain be rid o', than 'at she cared sae verra muckle aboot onything we said no til her min'. She taks a haud o' the words, no doobt! but I canna help thinkin' 'at 'maist whatever we said, it wud be the same. Something to compleen o' 's never wantin' whan ye're ill-pleast a'ready!|
|It's no the duin' o' the richt, ye see,| said the cobbler, | -- I mean, that's no itsel' the en', but the richt humour o' the sowl towards a' things thoucht or felt or dune! That's richteousness, an' oot o' that comes, o' the verra necessity o' natur', a' richt deeds o' whatever kin'. Whaur they comena furth, it's whaur the sowl, the thoucht o' the man 's no richt. Oor puir lassie shaws a' mainner o' sma' infirmities jist 'cause the humour o' her sowl 's no hermonious wi' the trowth, no hermonious in itsel', no at ane wi' the true thing -- wi' the true man -- wi' the true God. It may even be said it's a sma' thing 'at a man sud du wrang, sae lang as he's capable o' duin' wrang, an' lovesna the richt wi' hert an' sowl. But eh, it's no a sma' thing 'at he sud be capable!|
|Surely, Anerew,| interposed his wife, holding up her hands in mild deprecation, |ye wudna lat the lassie du wrang gien ye could haud her richt?|
|No, I wudna,| replied her husband, | -- supposin' the haudin' o' her richt to fa' in wi' ony degree o' perception o' the richt on her pairt. But supposin' it was only the haudin' o' her frae ill by ootward constraint, leavin' her ready upo' the first opportunity to turn aside; whereas, gien she had dune wrang, she wud repent o' 't, an' see what a foul thing it was to gang again' the holy wull o' him 'at made an' dee'd for her -- I lea' ye to jeedge for yersel' what ony man 'at luved God an' luved the lass an' luved the richt, wud chuise. We maun haud baith een open upo' the trowth, an' no blink sidewise upo' the warl' an' its richteousness wi' ane o' them. Wha wadna be Zacchay wi' the Lord in his hoose, an' the richteousness o' God himsel' growin' in his hert, raither nor the prood Pharisee wha kent nae ill he was duin', an' thoucht it a shame to speak to sic a man as Zacchay!|
The grandmother held her peace, thinking probably that so long as one kept respectable, there remained the more likelihood of a spiritual change.
|Is there anything you think I could do?| asked Donal. |I confess I'm afraid of meddling.|
|I wudna hae you appear, sir,| said Andrew, |in onything, concernin' her. Ye're a yoong man yersel', an' fowk's herts as well as fowk's tongues are no to be lippent til. I hae seen fowk, 'cause they couldna believe a body duin' a thing frae a sma' modicum o' gude wull, set themsel's to invent what they ca'd a motive til accoont for't -- something, that is, that wud hae prevailt wi' themsel's to gar them du't. Sic fowk canna un'erstan' a body duin' onything jist 'cause it was worth duin' in itsel'!|
|But maybe,| said the old woman, returning to the practical, |as ye hae been pleased to say ye're on freen'ly terms wi' mistress Brookes, ye micht jist see gien she 's observed ony ten'ency to resumption o' the auld affair!|
Donal promised, and as soon as he reached the castle sought an interview with the house keeper. She told him she had been particularly pleased of late with Eppy's attention to her work, and readiness to make herself useful. If she did look sometimes a little out of heart, they must remember, she said, that they had been young themselves once, and that it was not so easy to forget as to give up. But she would keep her eyes open!