THINGS went on very quietly for a time. Arctura grew better, resumed her studies, and made excellent progress. She would have worked harder, but Donal would not let her. He hated forcing -- even with the good will of the plant itself. He believed in a holy, unhasting growth. God's ways want God's time.
Long after, people would sometimes say to him --
|That is very well in the abstract; but in these days of hurry a young fellow would that way be left ages behind!|
|With God,| would Donal say.
|Tut, tut! the thing would never work!|
|For your ends,| Donal would answer, |it certainly would never work; but your ends are not those of the universe!|
|I do not pretend they are; but they are the success of the boy.|
|That is one of the ends of the universe; and your reward will be to thwart it for a season. I decline to make one in a conspiracy against the design of our creator: I would fain die loyal!|
He was of course laughed at, and not a little despised, as an extravagant enthusiast. But those who laughed found it hard to say for what he was enthusiastic. It seemed hardly for education, when he would even do what he could sometimes to keep a pupil back! He did not care to make the best of any one! The truth was, Donal's best was so many miles a-head of theirs, that it was below their horizon altogether. If there be any relation between time and the human mind, every forcing of human process, whether in spirit or intellect, is hurtful, a retarding of God's plan.
Lady Arctura's old troubles were gradually fading into the limbo of vanities. At times, however, mostly when unwell, they would come in upon her like a flood: what if, after all, God were the self-loving being theology presented -- a being from whom no loving human heart could but recoil with a holy dislike! what if it was because of a nature specially evil that she could not accept the God in whom the priests and elders of her people believed! But again and again, in the midst of profoundest wretchedness from such doubt, had a sudden flush of the world's beauty -- that beauty which Jesus has told us to consider and the modern pharisee to avoid, broken like gentlest mightiest sunrise through the hellish fog, and she had felt a power upon her as from the heart of a very God -- a God such as she would give her life to believe in -- one before whom she would cast herself in speechless adoration -- not of his greatness -- of that she felt little, but of his lovingkindness, the gentleness that was making her great. Then would she care utterly for God and his Christ, nothing for what men said about them: the Lord never meant his lambs to be under the tyranny of any, least of all the tyranny of his own most imperfect church! its work is to teach; where it cannot teach, it must not rule! Then would God appear to her not only true, but real -- the heart of the human, to which she could cling, and so rest. The corruption of all religion comes of leaving the human, and God as the causing Human, for something imagined holier. Men who do not see the loveliness of the Truth, search till they find a lie they can call lovely. What but a human reality could the heart of man ever love! what else are we offered in Jesus but the absolutely human? That Jesus has two natures is of the most mischievous fictions of theology. The divine and the human are not two.
Suddenly, after an absence of months, reappeared lord Forgue -- cheerful, manly, on the best terms with his father, and plainly willing to be on still better terms with his cousin! He had left the place a mooning youth; he came back a man of the world -- easy in carriage, courteous in manners, serene in temper, abounding in what seemed the results of observation, attentive but not too attentive, jolly with Davie, distant with Donal, polite to all. Donal could hardly receive the evidence of his senses: he would have wondered more had he known every factor in the change. All about him seemed to say it should not be his fault if the follies of his youth remained unforgotten; and his airy carriage sat well upon him. None the less Donal felt there was no restoration of the charm which had at first attracted him; that was utterly vanished. He felt certain he had been going down hill, and was now, instead of negatively, consciously and positively untrue.
With gradations undefined, but not unmarked of Donal, as if the man found himself under influences of which the youth had been unaware, he began to show himself not indifferent to the attractions of his cousin. He expressed concern that her health was not what it had been; sought her in her room when she did not appear; professed an interest in knowing what books she was reading, and what were her studies with Donal; behaved like a good brother-cousin, who would not be sorry to be something more.
And now the earl, to the astonishment of the household, began to appear at table; and, apparently as a consequence of this, Donal was requested rather than invited to take his meals with the family -- not altogether to his satisfaction, seeing he could not only read while he ate alone, but could get through more quickly, and have the time thus saved, for things of greater consequence. His presence made it easier for lord Forgue to act his part, and the manners he brought to the front left little to be desired. He bowed to the judgment of Arctura, and seemed to welcome that of his father, to whom he was now as respectful as moralist could desire. Yet he sometimes faced a card he did not mean to show: who that is not absolutely true can escape the mishap! -- there was condescension in his politeness to Donal! and this, had there been nothing else, would have been enough to revolt Arctura. But in truth he impressed her altogether as a man of outsides; she felt that she did not see the man he was, but the nearest approach he could make to the man he would be taken for. He was gracious, dignified, responsive, kind, amusing, accurate, ready -- everything but true. He would make of his outer man all but what it was meant for -- a revelation of the inner. It was that notwithstanding. He was a man dressed in a man, and his dress was a revelation of much that he was, while he intended it only to show much that he was not. No man can help unveiling himself, however long he may escape even his own detection. There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed. Things were meant to come out, and be read, and understood, in the face of the universe. The soul of every man is as a secret book, whose content is yet written on its cover for the reading of the wise. How differently is it read by the fool, whose very understanding is a misunderstanding! He takes a man for a God when on the point of being eaten up of worms! he buys for thirty pieces of silver him whom the sepulchre cannot hold! Well for those in the world of revelation, who give their sins no quarter in this!
Forgue had been in Edinburgh a part of the time, in England another part. He had many things to tell of the people he had seen, and the sports he had shared in. He had developed and enlarged a vein of gentlemanly satire, which he kept supplied by the observation and analysis of the peculiarities, generally weaknesses, of others. These, as a matter of course, he judged merely by the poor standard of society: questioned concerning any upon the larger human scale, he could give no account of them. To Donal's eyes, the man was a shallow pool whose surface brightness concealed the muddy bottom.