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Image Map : Christian Books : CHAPTER LIV. LADY ARCTURA'S ROOM.

Donal Grant by George MacDonald


THE next day, when he saw lady Arctura, Donal was glad to learn that, for all the excitement of the day before, she had passed a good night, and never dreamed at all.

|I've been thinking it all over, my lady,| he said, |and it seems to me that, if your uncle heard the noise of our plummet so near, the chimney can hardly rise from the floor you searched; for that room, you know, is half-way between the ground-floor and first floor. Still, sound does travel so! We must betake ourselves to measurement, I fear. -- But another thing came into my head last night which may serve to give us a sort of parallax. You said you heard the music in your own room: would you let me look about in it a little? something might suggest itself! -- Is it the room I saw you in once?|

|Not that,| answered Arctura, |but the bedroom beyond it. I hear it sometimes in either room, but louder in the bedroom. You can examine it when you please. -- If only you could find my bad dream, and drive it out! -- Will you come now?|

|It is near the earl's room: is there no danger of his hearing anything?|

|Not the least. The room is not far from his, it is true, but it is not in the same block; there are thick walls between. Besides he is too ill to be up.|

She led the way, and Donal followed her up the main staircase to the second floor, and into the small, curious, ancient room, evidently one of the oldest in the castle, which she had chosen for her sitting-room. Perhaps if she had lived less in the shadow, she might have chosen a less gloomy one: the sky was visible only through a little lane of walls and gables and battlements. But it was very charming, with its odd nooks and corners, recesses and projections. It looked an afterthought, the utilization of a space accidentally defined by rejection, as if every one of its sides were the wall of a distinct building.

|I do wish, my lady,| said Donal, |you would not sit so much where is so little sunlight! Outer and inner things are in their origin one; the light of the sun is the natural world-clothing of the truth, and whoever sits much in the physical dark misses a great help to understanding the things of the light. If I were your director,| he went on, |I would counsel you to change this room for one with a broad, fair outlook; so that, when gloomy thoughts hid God from you, they might have his eternal contradiction in the face of his heaven and earth.|

|It is but fair to tell you,| replied Arctura, |that Sophia would have had me do so; but while I felt about God as she taught me, what could the fairest sunlight be to me?|

|Yes, what indeed!| returned Donal. |Do you know,| he added presently, his eyes straying about the room, |I feel almost as if I were trying to understand a human creature. A house is so like a human mind, which gradually disentangles and explains itself as you go on to know it! It is no accidental resemblance, for, as an unavoidable necessity, every house must be like those that built it.|

|But in a very old house,| said Arctura, |so many hands of so many generations have been employed in the building, and so many fancied as well as real necessities have been at work, that it must be a conflict of many natures.|

|But where the house continues in the same family, the builders have more or less transmitted their nature, as well as their house, to those who come after them.|

|Do you think then,| said Arctura, almost with a shudder, |that I inherit a nature like the house left me -- that the house is an outside to me -- fits my very self as the shell fits the snail?|

|The relation of outer and inner is there, but there is given with it an infinite power to modify. Everyone is born nearer to God than to any ancestor, and it rests with him to cultivate either the godness or the selfness in him, his original or his mere ancestral nature. The fight between the natural and the spiritual man is the history of the world. The man who sets his faults inherited, makes atonement for the sins of those who went before him; he is baptized for the dead, not with water but with fire.|

|That seems to me strange doctrine,| said Arctura, with tremulous objection.

|If you do not like it, do not believe it. We inherit from our ancestors vices no more than virtues, but tendencies to both. Vice in my great-great-grandfather may in me be an impulse.|

|How horrible!| cried Arctura.

|To say that we inherit sin from Adam, horrifies nobody: the source is so far back from us, that we let the stream fill our cisterns unheeded; but to say we inherit it from this or that nearer ancestor, causes the fact to assume its definite and individual reality, and make a correspondent impression.|

|Then you allow that it is horrible to think oneself under the influence of the vices of certain wicked people, through whom we come where we are?|

|I would allow it, were it not that God is nearer to us than any vices, even were they our own; he is between us and those vices. But in us they are not vices -- only possibilities, which become vices when they are yielded to. Then there are at the same time all sorts of counteracting and redeeming influences. It may be that wherein a certain ancestor was most wicked, his wife was especially lovely. He may have been cruel, and she tender as the hen that gathers her chickens under her wing. The main danger is perhaps, of being caught in some sudden gust of unsuspected impulse, and carried away of the one tendency before the other has time to assert and the will to rouse itself. But those who doubt themselves and try to do right may hope for warning. Such will not, I think, be allowed to go far out of the way for want of that. Self-confidence is the worst traitor.|

|You comfort me a little.|

|And then you must remember,| continued Donal, |that nothing in its immediate root is evil; that from best human roots worst things spring. No one, for instance, will be so full of indignation, of fierceness, of revenge, as the selfish man born with a strong sense of justice. -- But you say this is not the room in which you hear the music best?|

|No, it is here.|

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