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- What's Mine's Mine - 80/89 -
and a half of potatoes.
"Are you far behind with your rent?"
"Not a quarter, Macruadh."
"Then what does it mean?"
"It means, sir, that Strathruadh is to be given to the red deer, and the son of man have nowhere to lay his head. I am the first at your door with my sorrow, but before the day is over you will have--"
Here he named four or five who had received like notice to quit.
"It is a sad business!" said the chief sorrowfully.
"Is it law, sir?"
"It is not easy to say what is law, Donal; certainly it is not gospel! As a matter of course you will not be without shelter, so long as I may call stone or turf mine, but things are looking bad! Things as well as souls are in God's hands however!"
"I learn from the new men on the hills," resumed Donal, "that the new lairds have conspired to exterminate us. They have discovered, apparently, that the earth was not made for man, but for rich men and beasts!" Here the little man paused, and his insignificant face grew in expression grand. "But the day of the Lord will come," he went on, "as a thief in the night. Vengeance is his, and he will know where to give many stripes, and where few.--What would you have us do, laird?"
"I will go with you to the village."
"No, if you please, sir! Better men will be at your door presently to put the same question, for they will do nothing without the Macruadh. We are no more on your land, great is our sorrow, chief, but we are of your blood, you are our lord, and your will is ours. You have been a nursing father to us, Macruadh!"
"I would fain be!" answered the chief.
"They will want to know whether these strangers have the right to turn us out; and if they have not the right to disseize, whether we have not the right to resist. If you would have us fight, and will head us, we will fall to a man--for fall we must; we cannot think to stand before the redcoats."
"No, no, Donal! It is not a question of the truth; that we should be bound to die for, of course. It is only our rights that are concerned, and they are not worth dying for. That would be mere pride, and denial of God who is fighting for us. At least so it seems at the moment to me!"
"Some of us would fain fight and have done with it, sir!"
The chief could not help smiling with pleasure at the little man's warlike readiness: he knew it was no empty boast; what there was of him was good stuff.
"You have a wife and children, Donal!" he said; "what would become of them if you fell?"
"My sister was turned out in the cold spring," answered Donal, "and died in Glencalvu! It would be better to die together!"
"But, Donal, none of yours will die of cold, and I can't let you fight, because the wives and children would all come on my hands, and I should have too many for my meal! No, we must not fight. We may have a right to fight, I do not know; but I am sure we have at least the right to abstain from fighting. Don't let us confound right and duty, Donal--neither in thing nor in word!"
"Will the law not help us, Macruadh?"
"The law is such a slow coach! our enemies are so rich! and the lawyers have little love of righteousness! Most of them would see the dust on our heads to have the picking of our bones! Stick nor stone would be left us before anything came of it!"
"But, sir," said Donal, "is it the part of brave men to give up their rights?"
"No man can take from us our rights," answered the chief, "but any man rich enough may keep us from getting the good of them. I say again we are not bound to insist on our rights. We may decline to do so, and that way leave them to God to look after for us."
"God does not always give men their rights, sir! I don't believe he cares about our small matters!"
"Nothing that God does not care about can be worth our caring about. But, Donal, how dare you say what you do? Have you lived to all eternity? How do you know what you say? GOD DOES care for our rights. A day is coming, as you have just said, when he will judge the oppressors of their brethren."
"We shall be all dead and buried long before then!"
"As he pleases, Donal! He is my chief. I will have what he wills, not what I should like! A thousand years I will wait for my rights if he chooses. I will trust him to do splendidly for me. No; I will have no other way than my chief's! He will set everything straight!"
"You must be right, sir! only I can't help wishing for the old times, when a man could strike a blow for himself!"
With all who came Alister held similar talk; for though they were not all so warlike as the cobbler, they keenly felt the wrong that was done them, and would mostly, but for a doubt of its rectitude, have opposed force with force. It would at least bring their case before the country!
"The case is before a higher tribunal," answered the laird; "and one's country is no incarnation of justice! How could she be, made up mostly of such as do not love fair play except in the abstract, or for themselves! The wise thing is to submit to wrong."
It is in ordering our own thoughts and our own actions, that we have first to stand up for the right; our business is not to protect ourselves from our neighbour's wrong, but our neighbour from our wrong. This is to slay evil; the other is to make it multiply. A man who would pull out even a mote from his brother's eye, must first pull out the beam from his own eye, must be righteous against his own selfishness. That is the only way to wound the root of evil. He who teaches his neighbour to insist on his rights, is not a teacher of righteousness. He who, by fulfilling his own duties, teaches his neighbour to give every man the fair play he owes him, is a fellow-worker with God.
But although not a few of the villagers spoke in wrath and counselled resistance, not one of them rejoiced in the anticipation of disorder. Heartily did Rob of the Angels insist on peace, but his words had the less force that he was puny in person, and, although capable of great endurance, unnoted for deeds of strength. Evil birds carried the words of natural and righteous anger to the ears of the new laird; no good birds bore the words of appeasement: he concluded after his kind that their chief countenanced a determined resistance.
On all sides the horizon was dark about the remnant of Clanruadh. Poorly as they lived in Strathruadh, they knew no place else where they could live at all. Separated, and so disabled from making common cause against want, they must perish! But their horizon was not heaven, and God was beyond it.
It was a great comfort to the chief that in the matter of his clan his mother agreed with him altogether: to the last penny of their having they must help their people! Those who feel as if the land were their own, do fearful wrong to their own souls! What grandest opportunities of growing divine they lose! Instead of being man-nobles, leading a sumptuous life until it no longer looks sumptuous, they might be God-nobles--saviours of men, yielding themselves to and for their brethren! What friends might they not make with the mammon of unrighteousness, instead of passing hence into a region where no doors, no arms will be open to them! Things are ours that we may use them for all--sometimes that we may sacrifice them. God had but one precious thing, and he gave that!
The chief, although he saw that the proceedings of Mr. Palmer and Mr. Brander must have been determined upon while his relation to Mercy was yet undeclared, could not help imagining how differently it might have gone with his people, had he been married to Mercy, and in a good understanding with her father. Had he crippled his reach toward men by the narrowness of his conscience toward God? So long as he did what seemed right, he must regret no consequences, even for the sake of others! God would mind others as well as him! Every sequence of right, even to the sword and fire, are God's care; he will justify himself in the eyes of the true, nor heed the judgment of the false.
One thing was clear--that it would do but harm to beg of Mr. Palmer any pity for his people: it would but give zest to his rejoicing in iniquity! Something nevertheless must be determined, and speedily, for winter was at hand.
The Macruadh had to consider not only the immediate accommodation of the ejected but how they were to be maintained. Such was his difficulty that he began to long for such news from Ian as would justify an exodus from their own country, not the less a land of bondage, to a home in the wilderness. But ah, what would then the land of his fathers without its people be to him! It would be no more worthy the name of land, no longer fit to be called a possession! He knew then that the true love of the land is one with the love of its people. To live on it after they were gone, would be like making a home of the family mausoleum. The rich "pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor," but what would any land become without the poor in it? The poor are blessed because by their poverty they are open to divine influences; they are the buckets set out to catch the rain of heaven; they are the salt of the earth! The poor are to be always with a nation for its best blessing, or for its condemnation and ruin. The chief saw the valleys desolate of the men readiest and ablest to fight the battles of his country. For the sake of greedy, low-minded fellows, the summons of her war-pipes would be heard in them no more, or would sound in vain among the manless rocks; from sheilin, cottage, or clachan, would spring no kilted warriors with battle response! The red deer and the big sheep had taken the place of men over countless miles of mountain and moor and strath! His heart bled for the sufferings and wrongs of those whose ancestors died to keep the country free that was now expelling
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