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- What's Mine's Mine - 30/89 -
along with so little of another!"
"What is the story about?" asked Mercy.
"What I may call the canvas of it, speaking as if it were a picture, is the idea that the whole of space is full of life; that, as the smallest drop of water is crowded with monsters of hideous forms and dispositions, so is what we call space full of living creatures,--"
"--not all monsters, however. There are among them creatures not altogether differing from us, but differing much from each other,--"
"As much as you and I?"
"--some of them lovely and friendly, others frightful in their beauty and malignity,--"
"Why do you call it nonsense?"
"How could anything beautiful be frightful?"
"I ought not to have said BEAUTIFUL. But the frightfullest face I ever saw ought to have been the finest. When the lady that owned it spoke to me, I shivered."
"But anyhow the whole thing is nonsense!"
"How is it nonsense?"
"Because there are no such creatures."
"How do you know that? Another may have seen them though you and I never did!"
"You are making game of me! You think to make me believe anything you choose!"
"Will you tell me something you do believe?"
"That you may prove immediately that I do not believe it!" she retorted, with more insight than he had expected. "--You are not very entertaining!"
"Would you like me to tell you a story then?"
"Will it be nonsense?"
"I should like a little nonsense."
"You are an angel of goodness, and as wise as you are lovely!" said Ian.
She turned upon him, and opened wide at him her great black eyes, in which were mingled defiance and question.
"Your reasoning is worthy of your intellect. When you dance," he went on, looking very solemn, "your foot would not bend the neck of a daisy asleep in its rosy crown. The west wind of May haunts you with its twilight-odours; and when you waltz, so have I seen the waterspout gyrate on the blue floor of the Mediterranean. Your voice is as the harp of Selma; and when you look out of your welkin eyes-- no! there I am wrong! Allow me!--ah, I thought so!--dark as Erebus!--But what!"
For Mercy, perceiving at last that he was treating her like the silliest of small girls, lost her patience, and burst into tears.
"You are dreadfully rude!" she sobbed.
Ian was vexed with himself.
"You asked me to talk nonsense to you, Miss Mercy! I attempted to obey you, and have done it stupidly. But at least it was absolute nonsense! Shall I make up for it by telling you a pretty story?"
"Anything to put away that!" answered Mercy, trying to smile.
He began at once, and told her a wonderful tale--told first after this fashion by Bob of the Angels, at a winter-night gathering of the women, as they carded and spun their wool, and reeled their yarn together. It was one well-known in the country, but Rob had filled it after his fancy with imaginative turns and spiritual hints, unappreciable by the tall child of seventeen walking by Ian's side. There was not among the maidens of the poor village one who would not have understood it better than she. It took her fancy notwithstanding, partly, perhaps, from its unlikeness to any story she had ever heard before. Her childhood had been starved on the husks of new fairy-tales, all invention and no imagination, than which more unnourishing food was never offered to God's children.
The story Ian told her under that skyful of stars, was as Rob of the Angels had dressed it for the clan matrons and maidens, only altered a very little for the ears of the lowland girl.
END OF VOL. I.
CONTENTS OF VOL. II.
I. THE STORY TOLD BY IAN II. ROB OF THE ANGELS III. AT THE NEW HOUSE IV. THE BROTHERS V. THE PRINCESS VI. THE TWO PAIRS VII. AN CABRACH MOR VIII. THE STAG'S HEAD IX. ANNIE OF THE SHOP X. THE ENCOUNTER XI. A LESSON XII. NATURE XIII. GRANNY ANGRY XIV. CHANGE XV. LOVE ALLODIAL XVI. MERCY CALLS ON GRANNIE XVII. IN THE TOMB
WHATS'S MINE'S MINE.
THE STORY TOLD BY IAN.
"There was once a woman whose husband was well to do, but he died and left her, and then she sank into poverty. She did her best; but she had a large family, and work was hard to find, and hard to do when it was found, and hardly paid when it was done. Only hearts of grace can understand the struggles of the poor--with everything but God against them! But she trusted in God, and said whatever he pleased must be right, whether he sent it with his own hand or not.
"Now, whether it was that she could not find them enough to eat, or that she could not keep them warm enough, I do not know; I do not think it was that they had not gladness enough, which is as necessary for young things as food and air and sun, for it is wonderful on how little a child can be happy; but whatever was the cause, they began to die. One after the other sickened and lay down, and did not rise again; and for a time her life was just a waiting upon death. She would have wanted to die herself, but that there was always another to die first; she had to see them all safe home before she dared wish to go herself. But at length the last of them was gone, and then when she had no more to provide for, the heart of work went out of her: where was the good of working for herself! there was no interest in it! But she knew it was the will of God she should work and eat until he chose to take her back to himself; so she worked on for her living while she would much rather have worked for her dying; and comforted herself that every day brought death a day nearer. Then she fell ill herself, and could work no more, and thought God was going to let her die; for, able to win her bread no longer, surely she was free to lie down and wait for death! But just as she was going to her bed for the last time, she bethought herself that she was bound to give her neighbour the chance of doing a good deed: and felt that any creature dying at her door without letting her know he was in want, would do her a great wrong. She saw it was the will of God that she should beg, so put on her clothes again, and went out to beg. It was sore work, and she said so to the priest. But the priest told her she need not mind, for our Lord himself lived by the kindness of the women who went about with him. They knew he could not make a living for his own body and a living for the souls of so many as well, and the least they could do was to keep him alive who was making them alive. She said that was very true; but he was all the time doing everything for everybody, and she was doing nothing for anybody. The priest was a wise man, and did not tell her how she had, since ever he knew her, been doing the work of God in his heart, helping him to believe and trust in God; so that in fact, when he was preaching, she was preaching. He did not tell her that, I say, for he was jealous over her beauty, and would have Christ's beloved sheep enter his holy kingdom with her wool white, however torn it might be. So he left her to think she was nobody at all; and told her that, whether she was worth keeping alive or not, whether she was worth begging for or not, whether it was a disgrace or an honour to beg, all was one, for it was the will of God that she should beg, and there was no word more to be said,
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